8 days (crammed into less than) a week

That’s pretty much how I feel as I recuperate from an exhausting four days in Beijing.

This was the first trip to China where I truly experienced Wikipedia withdrawal. You really don’t know what you’ve got until it is blacklisted by a state government. I worry about the larger implications of this.

I always chuckle at the Chinese entry document when you are asked to check the box corresponding to your intention: Business, Conference, Official, Other (huh?), etc. There’s a box that says Settle Down. I’m tempted to check it. What does that mean? Give me your poor, your tired, your crazed Westerners looking to just settle down? I imagine the schoolmarm at passport control looking at me stoically and saying “You just need to relax, hmmm?”

I’ve realized now, after my seventh trip to the Far East, that the timeshift is truly diabolical. I suppose it is my own fault. When working in Europe and the Middle East you basically have an elongated work day. Do your thing there, return to the hotel, log on, work with your colleagues back home for a few hours at the start of their work day. In China, it is like this but with about a five hour gap between the end of the Chinese work day and waking Americans. After a few days of this the only reasonable thing to do is sleep during this period. Which completely destroys any hope of a sustainable schedule. The day becomes split: awake 6am-6pm, sleep 6pm-10pm, awake 10pm – 2am, sleep, etc. Awful. Maybe I should just treat it like a vacation from work back home.

That said, I can’t complain. Working at the Forbidden City is a special treat. IT geeks are almost always housed in basements, dungeons, or worse — and when I work there I am in a temporary trailer — but how bad can it be when you step out to this?


The Forbidden City is surrounded by a wide moat on all four sides. It is stagnant and forboding, as a defensive moat should be, I suppose. Yet, there are always a few dozen people fishing in it. I’ve never seen anyone pull anything living out of it, but from the size of the poles they use (without reels) I am pretty sure they are angling for some sort of slithering leviathan the size of a bus.

Our colleagues at the Forbidden City again hosted a ping pong tournament. I should have learned from the first drubbing last year. I think I lost 11-7, 11-8 which sounds way closer than it was. Yes, my opponent held his paddle upside-down, yes he stood way the hell back and played many of my shots after the ball had dropped below the plane of the table on his side, but what really threw me off was his serving ritual. He’d pet the table up by the net, move back, bounce the ball slowly on his paddle held parallel to the table, tuck it all back in close to his body (so I could not see it clearly), then whip out a serve that never went where I thought it would. If I managed to return it the shot was so lame that I was shortly searching for the ball ricocheting between server cabinets way behind me. Still, it was good fun and I really love that Chinese television always has professional ping pong coverage on. Taunting, yelling, sweating, injuries — the way ping pong should be.