Saturday, November 29, 2008

Beijing experiences II

It seemed to me that the Second Ditan International Conference on Infectious Diseases in Beijing was organized by Cosoman Limited in Hong Kong despite the fact that the official organizer was the Beijing Ditan Hospital. We didn't get any information about check-in nor could we find any information on the official website, all we knew was that the first scientific program was scheduled at 14:00. We went to the venue around 11:00 and tried to check-in, however they couldn't find our information and asked us to pay for participation. We explained to the staff our identities as oral presenting authors and we had registered and paid for the conference via internet. It took a senior staff to find our records. Figuring out what title they should put on our name tags took another senior staff to accomplish. We asked for invoices for reimbursement, apparently this was something that they weren't expecting. The official language of the conference was English thus I was bewildered that speeches before my section were given in mandarin. We found out later it was because there were no foreigners in that section and mandarin was chosen unanimously for the section. The setting of the venue was speaker unfriendly, I could hardly see my power point on the screen from the stage; moderators had to give up their table and sat with the audience to see slides; no laser pointer for the speakers nor timer for the moderators. This was one of the most chaotic conference organizations that I have ever seen.

There really is no good way to get around in Beijing city if you are in hurry to get somewhere. The subway system has a massive coverage rate in the city center, however, one might have to transfer a few lines before getting to one's destination. Taking a taxi maybe a better bet if you are not stuck in a traffic jam which seems inevitable taking place all the time in the city center. I couldn't help wondering why it seemed every mintue in the city center was a rush hour, both in subway and on roads. It is said that the number of vehicles increased exponentially during the SARS epidemic because everybody was afraid to go to any public spaces. To relieve the congestion, the policy of plate number of vehicles ending with certain digits are forbidden on certain days was implemented. Despite the convenient subway, good road system and policies implemented, it doesn't seem to make it any less congested. I have to say though, Beijing has the best taxi service as far as I know. Expect a cost of 20~40RMB for getting around the city, an receipt containing the taxi number and its relevant information such as the organization and phone number etc. is always provided.

If spitting was an Olympic sport, there is no doubt that China would win a gold medal. It takes years of practice to concentrate the watery saliva and fire it with accurate an angle and force so it can fly against strong winter wind without falling apart (I think phlegm also helps to stick it together) and utimately hit the target in a perfect parabola. I was amazed that I have never been hit by a stray bullet during my stay considering all walks of life practice this skill everywhere. It also would be interesting to conduct a survey regarding the impact of second hand smoke to the public health in Beijing. The result should be promising.

No comments: