So, I found an internet cafe just down the street from where I am staying, and, as you can see, I can access Typepad. Not too long ago people were saying Typepad was blocked in China. But I am right in the thick of it now (no fancy tourist hotel but down with the gamers and the bloggers on the street), and things seem to be working just fine.
The place is a large basement room. There must be three hundred computers in here, about a third of them reserved for "games only." I got here early, at quarter to eight in the morning (I think it is open 24 hrs), and walked right in and sat down at a machine. Not waiting. I was lucky because now, half an hour later, the line is out the door. It is incredibly cheap: 2 RMB (about 25 US cents) and hour! The clientele is young, teenagers and twenty-somethings mostly. And I can't help but think, given my advanced age here, how different their lives are from their parents. They assume easy and cheap internet access, opening them to a wide world of communication and exchange (even with the censorhip), that their parents could never have imagined! It's a new world, a new China.
Yet something that has struck me in just the past few hours is how, underneath the dizzying transformations of this country, some things stay the same. As I walked back to the guest house last evening, through the campus of BLCU, there was a small group of young women playing badmitten without a net. Just hitting the bird back and forth, talking, laughing, out with friends. It was a scene right out of my first enounters with China, back in 1983 at Beijing University. And the men out on the street, with the three-wheeled pedi-carts, selling roasted yams. This, too, was an old standard of 23 years ago. Only back then, there were was no 24-hour MacDonalds right across the street.
I do not know if I will have internet access during the conference. I have my lap-top and could, conceivably, blog right from the conference floor. We'll see. If not, I will try to post here tomorrow on how things are going. At one level, it will be an academic exercise. But, given the focus on Confucianism and postmodernism - obviously a way of engaging questions of how socio-economic change effects cultural understandings - there could be some ideas relevant for the Useless Tree.