First Impressions

Trip Start Aug 21, 2009
Trip End Sep 09, 2009

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Where I stayed
Timi's Couch

Flag of China  ,
Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Well, my first impression is that my stomach is out of practice. I thought I had the street food game figured out, but the last day and a half spent waddling between my bed and the bathroom made it abundantly clear that I need to beef up. I hope the Bolivian microbes are the same as the ones here because I really don't want to have to go through this again, at least not for a while.

I did manage to spend a day wandering around before getting laid up, and it made an impression on me. It has been a long time since I experienced culture shock, but there is no other phrase to describe what it feels like for a Westerner upon entering China.

Upon exiting the plane the first thing I experienced was the horrible realization that this place is hot; really, really, sticky, nasty, constantly dripping sweat, struggling to breath, it couldn't possibly get any hotter than this hot. That was while still in the partially air conditioned walkway. The real heat hit me when I walked outside. Unbelievable.

A train and taxi journey followed, and with these trips I was introduced to the aggressiveness which pervades much of the Chinese culture. These people are nuts. I thought I was used to aggressive driving, but it would be impossible for people to drive crazier than they do here. Cars and scooters regularly veer onto the sidewalk, and it is up to you to get out of the way. They will absolutely hit you. From what I have observed, it seems that the rules of the road simply give the right of way to the larger vehicle; buses rule the streets and will pull into anyone, cars, pedestrians, it doesn't matter. They regularly blow through reds, as does every other vehicle for that matter. Cars are next in line, deferring only to the buses. Scooters are very common and very aggressive, constantly cutting off the bicycles with whom they share the lane. Bicycles in turn run over pedestrians, who only can yell incessantly at the drivers, which I have observed several times already. I would love to know what they were saying.

You have to see it to believe it. I have seen so many near misses, in just a day, that it boggles my mind. Timi told me she read that 600 people die a day on the streets of Shanghai. In a city of 18 million I am surprised it isn't more. And apparently Shanghai has the best drivers in all of China. Think about this; China has 5% of the world's vehicles, but is responsible for 17% of the world's driving related fatalities. Unreal. Timi's coworker, Joe, told me that he was taking a taxi one day when the driver slammed into a scooter who was stopped at the light. Just plain old rear ended him. So what does the driver do? He gets out and starts yelling at the scooter guy of course. He should have gotten out of the way after all. This is China.

The people here are also aggressive when it comes to the metro. This is the only place I have ever traveled where the people entering the train do not let the arriving folk exit first. Nooooo, instead they jockey for position in front of the door and as soon as it opens there is a mad dash inside, those in your way be damned. I literally saw an old woman get pushed down so that a young girl could get a seat, which spurred a round of giggles from her and her friends. The humor was lost on me. The good news is that I am bigger than the average man and I adapt fairly well, so come my second metro ride I was running over old ladies with the best of em.

As I said, I am bigger than the average man, but I am not taller. I was disappointed to learn that my imposing stature of 5'7+3/4" is not considered even remotely tall here. I am average at best. Luckily, thanks to my new found belly and the slender build of virtually every Chinese citizen, I still usually feel like the toughest guy in the room. Whew.

That's all I will bore you with for now. Take care.

Please visit my photo site,
Any photos you buy will help further my traveling and volunteer work, not to mention they make a nice and extremely cheap gift.

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b.bice23 on

I am soooo jealous, but I am going to be buying our SEA tix this week.
Hope yer tummy feels better soon. Cubs are done... looking forward to feetball.


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