qatarperegrine: (Default)
One of the main topics of this conference I'm attending is whether the spread of English as a global language is good (yay intercultural communication!) or bad (boo Anglo-American hegemony!).

As I suspect is typical wherever Anglo-American academics gather to criticize Anglo-American hegemony, there has been a fair bit of capitalism-bashing going on. The opening plenary speaker extensively quoted Marx in his talk on whether English is a panacea or a pandemic. The final speaker of the day wondered whether English can ever be culturally neutral, or whether it is too tied to the failing capitalist international regime.

I'm not normally one to sing the praises of rampant unchecked capitalism, but giving a speech on the failure of capitalism in the middle of Hong Kong struck me as a little humorous.
qatarperegrine: (Default)
Plan A: Take metro to Lantau Island, then cable car to monastery.
Reason for failure: Cable cars are being serviced.

Plan B: OK, take ferry to Lantau, bus to monastery.
Reason for failure: After an hour-long ferry ride, we discovered bus service had been suspended.

Plan C: Take taxi to monastery.
Reason for failure: There has been a landslide on the road, and thus the monastery, giant Buddha statue, and interactive multimedia Buddha experience are cut off from the world.

Plan D: Well, since we're in Lantau, we might as well check out that fishing village.
Reason for failure: Also on other side of landslide.

Plan E: So much for Lantau. Let's back to Hong Kong Island and check out this cool-sounding museum.
Reason for failure: Museum closed Tuesdays.

Plan F: OK, let's head up to Kowloon, check out the park and then hit the museums.
Reason for failure: Got too ill to walk to park.

Plan G: Well, there's still the museums...
Reason for failure: Historical museum also closed Tuesdays. Art museum under heavy renovation, most exhibits closed.

Plan H: Screw this, it's 3:30, let's just head back to the hotel.

End result: Over seven hours out on the town, two art exhibits viewed.
Best moment of the day: Asking the server at the mall food court to hold the octopus on my order.

Hong Kong

Jun. 16th, 2008 02:57 pm
qatarperegrine: (Default)
Got to Hong Kong this afternoon. Three coworkers and I are presenting at a conference here this week; one of them (Ben) and I flew in today, and the other two (Dudley & Hope) arrive tomorrow.

We went for a walk along the harbor and ended up at Belcher Bay Park. Every few feet there were signs telling us not to smoke, not to have dogs, not to spit (with great illustrations), not to skateboard, not to make very much noise, and not to step on, or attack, snakes. Also there were signs we could not identify, but whose rather abstract graphics we interpreted as "no yokes" and "no kimonos."

On the plane ride here I started reading a collection of Ryunosuke Akutagawa stories, with an introduction by Haruki Murakami. Murakami says something about Akutagawa's Japan that made me think a lot of Qatar:

Only one generation had gone by since the end of that age [of samurai], hardly enough time to reshape people's inner landscapes. Superficial aspects such as new systems remained untouched: sensibility, values, archetypal mental images. In fact, the Meiji government openly promoted a policy supporting precisely such a bifurcation, as represented by the slogan "Japanese spirit, Western technology." They wanted to incorporate the technological progressiveness and efficiency of Western systems, but they also wanted the people to remain good, submissive Confucianists.

Living in a culture that is trying to combine the best of Western progressiveness with a Muslim, Arab spirit, it's really fascinating for me to get a glimpse into one of the Asian cultures that has been through this paradoxical process already.
qatarperegrine: (travel)
Two days ago I was at a conference in Pittsburgh. Tomorrow I'll be at a conference in Hong Kong. Due to airlines' esoteric round-trip pricing, I am in the process of flying from Pittsburgh to Hong Kong... through Doha. That is, if I'm subtracting correctly in my jet-lagged state, 22.5 hours of flight time in just over two days. I'm traveling halfway around the world: 12 time zones, 194 degrees longitude.

I am tired.

On the other hand, I really can't whine about going to Hong Kong. (It has an an immersive, multimedia Buddha attraction!) This will be the 10th country I've visited since moving to Qatar. I really, really love my life.

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