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Marc Wandschneider is a professional software developer with well over fifteen years of industry experience (yes, he really is that old). He travels the globe working on interesting projects and gives talks at conferences and trade shows whenever possible.

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Aug 14, 2008 | 22:08:55
Life in Beijing during the Olympics
By marcwan

Well, after a good six weeks of traveling to many different places (Singapore, Hong Kong, New York City, Maine, and finally Seattle), I’m back in Beijing now. I had originally planned to avoid coming here on account of how difficult the visa situation was supposed to be, but after some research, it turned out to be quite trivial to get a full year tourist visa (with the caveat that I have to leave every two months and then come back). But with all the pre-Olympic-hullabaloo, I was still nervous about coming back here during the middle of the games—what would things be like?

The short answer is that it’s a bit more annoying here, but not ultimately not all that different. Security measures that have been in place for years but were never seriously enforced before are suddenly being checked rigorously. I awoke in a panic this morning when I realised that I slept through most of yesterday and didn’t make it to the local gong an ju – public security office – to register. So I ran there this morning and started chatting with them and they were all smiles and then told me to come back later because they couldn’t get to the government website anyway.

Traffic definitely is better than it was before—Banning half the cars from the road is, it seems, an awesome way to improve traffic and air quality. There are dedicated lanes for the Olympics here and there which make the occasional mess of traffic still, but overall, the roads are deserted compared to what they were merely two months ago.

Air has been harder to measure. The first two days after I arrived were very cloudy, humid, and overcast, so it didn’t seem that nice out. A nice round of thunderstorms, yesterday, however, cleared nearly everything up, and today one can see the mountains surrounding the city (which I didn’t notice when I first moved to China until after nearly three weeks of living here!).

Oddly enough, compared to some of the DSL I was experiencing in the USA, the Internet here is stunningly fast and reliable. Sure, some sites are blocked, but that’s what SSH proxies were invented for, and I’ve pretty much got everything I want at my fingertips, with great speeds to boot.

My favourite thing about being back? The food. It’s awesome eating here. Lots of vegetables (even the meat dishes), lots of fruit, and the occasional ice cream here and there to help with the heat and humidity. I’ve already hit up the good Szechuan restaurants, and will keep working on all my regular smaller places before leaving again next week.

One thing I found interesting is that, despite the obvious pride at doing so well at the Olympic games and winning so many gold medals, many Chinese people I talk with are pretty sardonic about the whole thing, recognising that governments can pretty much buy as many gold medals as they’re willing to spend money on…

So, here’s to hoping that by the time I come back from India, China has returned to being the same old crazy and fun place that it’s been to live in. I can’t wait.

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