They Are Ready!

Trip Start Jul 28, 2007
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of China  ,
Monday, August 27, 2007

On Aug. 8, 2007, during the One-Year-to-Go-Until-the-Olympics-Ceremony, the Chinese stood in Tiananmen Square and sang "Wo men zhun bei hao le!" (We are ready!)  Quite impressed by this claim, I decided to head up to Olympic Park in the northern outskirts of the city to see the spectacle for myself.
Well, I've witnessed the sites with my own eyes and I can verify that the buildings are indeed standing.  Whether or not they are ready, well, I've posted pictures.  I'll let you decide.
In other fun stuff this weekend, on Saturday night, I went to my first movie in Beijing. Going more for the experience than for the movie itself, I approached the box office and asked for a ticket to whatever the next movie was.  I was kind of excited just to see what I would get, but the ticket lady told me I couldn't see the next movie.  I asked her if it was sold out and she said no, but that I just couldn't' go.  She said I had to wait two hours for Shrek III.  I told her I didn't want to see Shrek III, that I thought Shrek II wasn't that great, and that I'd rather just see whatever movie was playing next.  She shook her head again at me and said in English (the conversation up to now had been in Chinese), "It is no English."  Switching the conversation back to Chinese I told her that I didn't mind, because I was in the mood to practice my Chinese.  After saying that, she looked at me confused and said to me in English, "You can speak Chinese?"  In Chinese, I answered her, "Yes, a little.  May I please buy the ticket now?"  She scrunched her brow, sort of paralyzed by confusion.  She said okay and started to ask me where I wanted to sit, but then stopped again, looked at me with a very worried expession, and said, "But this movie is no English subtitle."  At this point, I was ready to jump through the ticket window and strangle her.  I think she sensed my rage and finally sold me the ticket.
The movie I ended up seeing was a poorly acted war movie called, "Night Raid," about a PLA (the Chinese Communist Army) attack on a Japanese airfield during WWII.  The story wasn't bad in itself, but whenever the Japanese kamikaze pilots would soar overhead to bomb the valiant Chinese soldiers, you could hear their diabolical laughing all the way down on the ground.  Now, yes, it is true that the Japanese did unspeakable things to the Chinese during their occupation, for which they have yet to fully atone.  The atrocities are well documented.  However, I'm no historian, but I am a little skeptical about the diabolical laughing on bombing raids.  Then again, who's to say?  I wasn't there.
The only other thing I've got to report at the moment is a short list of tips I've been compiling during my morning commute.  You see, I've given up taking the taxi to work in exchange for the thriftier bus to subway combination (4RMB/$0.50 as apposed to 30RMB/$4.00)...and also for the bragging rights of being able to say that I survived Beijing public transportation.  In case any of you think you might want to try it out one day, here's a little step-by-step guide. (Note: instructions valid for both bus and subway.)
1)      Buy ticket - for the bus, this will be from the live ticket taker person inside the bus, for the subway, from the live person behind the counter in the subway station.  Forget ticket automats. They are inefficient at creating jobs.

2)      Blatantly ignore any markings on the ground indicating a place to line up.  If somebody is standing at what appears to be the beginning of a line, move into position directly in front of that person.

3)      When the bus or subway car arrives, the moment the doors open, start pushing yourself into the vehicle, making sure not to allow people to get off first.  If you are one of the last people on the platform and the car appears to be full, under no circumstances should you stand back and wait for the next car.  Keep pushing and pushing until you force yourself onto the car.  Use your elbows if you have to.

4)      Once packed in tightly, you will have to make a decision as to where to put your hands.  You may (a) use them to clasp your bag, or (b) use them to protect your intimate areas from being poked, pressed, and prodded by those you are sandwiched up against.  Be warned, however, that by moving your hands to protect your own intimate areas, you will be inadvertently poking, pressing, and prodding the intimate areas of the person you are sandwiched up against.  I recommend choice (a).

5)      When you feel the vehicle start to move, bend your knees and prepare for a bumpy ride.
That should do it for now.  You are now ready for public transportation in Beijing.
Last thing, a friend of mine just forwarded me this NY Times article about the air quality situation here.  It sheds a lot of light.  I highly recommend reading it: gewanted=1&_r=1
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