Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Back from Beijing, Blithered

Well, I have finally stumbled back from the post-conference tour around China, and am in the office at last. Thank you, Jim, both for minding the blog, and for posting for me while I was in China. The great firewall of China would have stymied my attempts to blog and Twitter about the China-U.S. conference, but for e-mail and friendship!

I failed to mention on those reports that the conference managed to provide simultaneous translation services for the speakers in every workshop session. That was a truly astonishing accomplishment. There were student volunteers in tiny cubicles in the back of each presentation hall. They worked in relay teams, taking over seamlessly from each other to provide continuous translations as the speakers rattled along. Some speakers were aware of the problems of simultaneous translations, and spoke in measured tones. But many speakers, under time pressure because they had been promised 20 minutes but cut back to 10 or 15, spoke quickly. The translators rose to all challenges, and (as far as I can tell), managed to keep up and translate the speeches in adequate style.

The original roster of speakers was expanded in the last days before the conference by adding a number of extra Chinese speakers to nearly every program. This was probably done for political reasons, either for show, or morale purposes. The program still came out well, and I think we learned a lot on both sides. The primary goal of the conference was, after all, to jumpstart a Chinese law library association, and to begin a series of these conferences. Both aims seem to have been achieved, though time will have to bear this out.

I have a huge stack of business cards from Chinese and American colleagues from the conference. But the last one I received was the most surprising. Weeks after the conference ended, and after the post-conference tour was over, I was standing in line at the Beijing airport to get on the plane to the U.S. And the Chinese-appearing woman in front of me had a Westlaw roller bag, just like mine! She turned out to be Yan Hong, Insurance and Reference Librarian from the University of Connecticut Law Library. She had, like me, been at the CUSCLL conference, and had stayed after. She has family and friends in China, and visited them with her son. They were coming back on the same flight as my daughter and I were taking. We even sat on the same row in the airplane. What a world of coincidences!

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