My SIGGRAPH and Student Volunteer Program Story – Part 3
This is Part 3 in a series of blog posts about my experiences working with the ACM SIGGRAPH organization and conference. If you haven’t already, read Part 1 & Part 2 first. You can also read my SIGGRAPH 2011 wrap up here.
So with SIGGRAPH 2010 Asia approaching, I had been asked by the SV Chair to join his committee in Seoul, South Korea. He had been a former SV named Tan Wei Keong ( I mentioned him earlier, remember?) I had met in 2007 in San Diego, and we had kept in touch. See? Small world. Trying not to sound too thrilled, I had quickly agreed.
By now, I had been the only person who had served on both a SIGGRAPH and SIGGRAPH Asia SV Committee, and from that experience I can tell you they are _nothing_ alike. It would logically follow that I should tell you the difference between them, but for now I’ll just say I enjoy both the similarities and the differences.
SIGGRAPH 2010 in Korea was fun. It was also cold. I live in Texas. We don’t have snow. We don’t have ice. We don’t have green ice. We don’t have purple ice. Apparently there is this thing called black ice. It’s responsible for ignorant texans’ broken tail bones the world over. I can’t remember how many times I walked out of the hotel on my way to the conference center and totally busted my butt! You know the baby who burns his hand on the stove and never touches it again? Yeah that wasn’t me.
So the conference in Korea went well. It was well attended and the sessions were great. The SV program that year was a blast, and we had a TON of fun. What some people didn’t know though – was that our trip was just beginning. Three other volunteers and myself had concocted a master plan to take over E/SE Asia. It was Josh Corken, a buddy I had met in Singapore when he was an SV there. Also joining us was Benny Garcia, a former Team Leader I had worked with in Los Angeles in 2008. Last was Eugene Harng, the one I had backpacked with from Eastern to Western Japan the year before. We had also met in Singapore where he served as one of our Team Leaders. Once the conference ended we would travel to Beijing, backpack down to Shanghai, then to Hong Kong and Macau. It was an awesome experience, and although we ran into some travel delays we all managed to make it out alive once again. Benny just barely.
We spent Christmas Eve atop The House of Roosevelt, and New Years in a Times Square-esque part of Hong Kong. We were invited to a famous local artists Hong Kong home where he cooked us a wonderful traditional 7 course meal. We smoked cuban cigars on forbidden areas of the Great Wall where our Beijing friends who we also met through SIGGRAPH took us. We were continuing to forge memories and friendships first started in SIGGRAPH Asia in Singapore, or San Diego, or LA, or wherever else they started. I’m sure they’ll last far into the future as well, as we typically see each other 2 – 3 – 4 times a year. That is, as long as Josh gives me back that shirt he borrowed.
Because of the visa requirement, a lot of Americans don’t get the chance to go to China. It’s a bit of a hassle, being that it’s expensive, you have to plan ahead to get it, and it only lasts for 30 days. Not quite sure how I managed all of those but it worked out. Beijing is a crazy place. The sky is yellow and I’m not sure if it was smog or fog to be fair, but it was definitely yellow. We drove down the highways and buildings would just continue popping up in the background non stop, seemingly out of nowhere. Because of the limited sight distance it was a strange phenomenon. Also, don’t ever try to drive in Beijing. The Chinese drive on the same side of the road as us, so you might think it would be OK to drive there. It’s not. There are lanes, but they are more for looks than anything else. Nobody really listens to them, and people just drive wherever they want. Traffic lights don’t really matter either, it’s all about WHO WANTS IT MORE. I kind of like that. The worst part was the bikes. Holy wow. I’m not sure how they can drive so close together and so crazy at the same time and not die. It’s actually amazing really. Be careful stepping out onto a street though, cars and bikes swinging around corners like crazy people is common.
After visiting many of the sites in Beijing we took a trip to an area of the Great Wall with our friends from Beijing. I got to drive the winding road up to the wall and it was really fun. I drove the hell out of that Honda Accord and never looked back. Except when I saw this camel walking down the road by himself. That was just weird.
Several days later we moved on to Shanghai, where we ended up staying for Christmas. Shanghai is a great city and these days there are a lot of affluent Americans flocking here to raise their children. We visited People’s Square Park and the World Expo, both of which were fantastic.
There was a mix up on our hostel accommodations, and the 4 of us guys ended up sharing a small room with 2 Chinese girls studying English in the city for the weekend. Their English was horrible. I say that as if I speak a lick of Mandarin. We tried to help them learn new words, and they picked it up quick.
Once we got to Hong Kong we knew we wanted to scout out the city for future SIGGRAPH Asia festivities. Eugene had lived here for a short time and often visits every year during the winter months. He knew the city well and stayed with family while we were there. I fell in love with Hong Kong immediately. The city is vibrant and beautiful, and totally full of life. The people there have this sense of hope and inspiration in their faces, like they know tomorrow is going to be better than today. Hong Kong is also very diverse, there are people from all over the world there. It’s much more diverse than you might expect. It wasn’t until recently that I learned about the cages. When we go back to attend for SIGGRAPH Asia 2011, we’re working on putting together a documentary about them and the ridiculous wealth gap that exists in Hong Kong. More on that later, but we’re doing it with the Border Jumpers, a project you can read more about here.
While in Hong Kong we met a local artist working on some projects for the Chinese government. He is a very famous ink painter / illustrator who was commissioned to make several works of art for the Chinese Government to hand out to visiting dignitaries. After seeing the huge “live painting” at the Shanghai World Expo earlier that year, he wanted to create a similar animation using his panda drawings. He rolled out one he had did that was around 30 meters long. Crazy cool.
Finally, after some travel delays in Macau and leaving Hong Kong, it was time to head home. Korea and China were beautiful places, but it was back to work as SIGGRAPH 2011 planning was fast approaching.