After arriving and resting for all afternoon, I headed out to the one sight that I was keen on seeing in Beijing. Our hotel was part of the infrastructure built for the 2008 Olympics and the birds nest and aquatic centre were just one block away. So I had planned to go there and also swim some laps in the same pool where Michael Phelps set a world record. But that was not going to happen. I learned that the whole olympic green area was still blocked after the APEC summit which concluded just a few days before our arrival. And it remainded closed during our whole time in Beijing. The upside to this was that we were treated with relatively little air pollution as according to this piece by Reuters the Chinese shut down lots of factories before and during the APEC summit and even stopped giving out marriage licenses in order to present itself in the best light.
The conference started early the next morning and despite me not understanding chinese, I still went to see a bit of the opening keynote. They had a massive stage in a giant ballroom and most of the 1000 seats were taken with many people standing in the back. It was a very impressive setup and it looks like they shared a lot of good news with their members. I was also surprised to hear a bit of english when they played a video message by IOUG president John Matelski.
After lunch they seperated the keynote hall into two rooms that were still of a significant size. Tom Kyte filled one of them easily and Tim also had a good turnout for his PL/SQL specific session. After this, I quickly took a taxi downtown to take a few selfies in the forbidden city and came back in time for the last session and the speakers dinner. Giuseppe was back after his first appearance on the tour in Shanghai and Joel Perez joined on this second half of the tour and will do the last legs in Bangkok and Auckland. Joel is always full of stories about travel and life in general.
I was up to speak on the second day of the conference in the same timeslot as Tom Kyte and Giuseppe. Not fair! But it turned out really well, my large room was about half full and Giuseppe reported that there was standing room only in his talk at the mysql track. The organizers warned me multiple times to not touch the LED screen for risk of getting electrocuted and I made sure to keep a safe distance.
Even though I did not really attend any of the sessions since I have either seen them already or would not understand chinese, there were plenty of things to do. There was a good number of vendors to see and chat with. And at the far end of the hall they set up a media centre for video interviews and a photo studio where I had some make up put on and tons of photos shot. They arranged my hair in a very weird way but I was not going to start an argument here. Will post pictures as soon as they get to me.
Which brings me to my favourite part: photo time with the locals. There was a bunch of young DBAs that was having their shirts signed by all the foreign speakers and were keen to pose for pictures. Silly faces were made, thumbs were put up and in the end we exchanged wechat contacts. Since the great firewall of china makes most western social media platforms painful to use (read: blocked), wechat is very popular in China. I had never even heard about it before but downloaded the app earlier that day. It is actually quite impressive. Everyone in China seems to be on it with people and businesses putting theit contact info on business cards, restaurant menus, bus stations, etc. Also, people actually use QR codes a lot to add contacts.
After a quiet and easy dinner with Tim and Joel it was time to say early goodbyes since they had to take another early flight to their next destination. For me, this marked the end of this year’s OTN APAC tour as I will be travelling home for one night and then on to the DOAG conference right after that. I always get a bit sentimental at the end of conferences and tours but just need to remind myself how lucky I am to be able to keep doing this, meet friends from all over the world again and still make new ones at every location I get to visit. And so I am leaving Asia overwhelmed with new impressions and honoured to have made many acquaintances and new friends. I hope I will be back rather sooner than later.