Sorry I lied...
03.18.2013 50 °F
This blog post is one i wrote a while ago and have had on back stock. I have so much I want to say and so little spare time anymore. So in the meantime when I am trying to write my blog post about my first day teaching at the migrant school and the chicken loose in my house...enjoy this post about......
The suspense is totally killing you....
Traffic!! Hooray...a cultural blog and since I feel like since there are rarely huge touristy events in my life, I can find more interesting and uniquely chinese things to tell you all. Plus I also just hate the fact that my last post was about panties. *shudder*
I have yet to explain my daily commute to school and I'm not sure if this will be that interesting so I apologize in advance, but none the less I am writing it. (:
Some things I have noticed about myself since moving into my host family is that I have become surprisingly OCD about how clean my room is. Just today I took a good 10 min rearranging the books on my desk till I liked exactly how they looked. I think I have become like this for a few reasons.
1) pure boredom
2) I only have a few belongings so I like them to all be consolidated
3) in china when your room is tidy it gives the impression you are a responsible person (I'm fooling them all!!! Mwaha)
So every night before I go to bed, I tidy up my room, I pack my bag and I lay out my outfit for the following day. I am not too much of a morning person and I don't know why I have never done this before, but it is so convenient!! I wake up in the morning and everything is planned out in 15 min intervals. I wake up at 6, I wash my face and brush my teeth ( unless its a day like today where I used my face wash as my toothpaste and my toothpaste as my face wash...whyyyyyyy?*facepalm*) I do my makeup, i do my hair, I get myself dressed and make my bed, and by 7 o clock I am eating breakfast. At 7:10 I leave and am on the 7:15 bus. Every morning without a hitch. It's so convenient!
The bus is something all on its own. I am completely impressed with the amount of buses they have and how often they come.A new bus will arrive every 10 min at the latest, the trains come every 3 min. My bus ride takes me about 20 minutes to get to school. It's not that I live far, I have walked home before and it only took about 40 minutes, but there is construction and lots of traffic. The buses are old. And LOUD! Half the time they sound like they are going to rattle apart and I am worried that one day the whole bus will just collapse into a pile of bolts on the road. For how crappy the busses are they have a pretty high tech system for paying. It is similar to the orca card, but it is a Nanjing city card. You can pay for cabs, the train, buses and sometimes even meals with it. And every time you tap it, it tells you exactly how much is left. I am currently at ¥0.80. =\ I need to go refill it.
Because I get on at the first stop I always get a seat which is not always true on my way home. I usually sit in the back, so as to try and avoid the people staring me the whole time. A few times I have been lucky enough to have the bus all to myself, at least for a few stops, who said china was over populated?? Although I do admit, nothing is more comfortable then having so many people crammed onto one bus that there isn't even a need to hold on to the hand rails, the pure mass of people holds the riders together. But like I mentioned, today was a normal bus day, a few older women and a few older men, their cards shout out an announcement of "老人卡＂(old person card) when they tap it. I can't help but to smirk every time, OLD PEOPLE APPROACHING.... Is all I hear in my head. Today besides the old people there was a young dad and his 7 year old son. The son sits right up front and a few minutes after he opened the window, then shut it, then opened, then...you get my point, he turns and looks right at me. I've been spotted and whats even worse is by a child. The sight of a 外国人is sometimes way too exciting...he turns looks right at his dad and yells:
"Baba there is a Foreigner on our bus!! She's sitting in the back!!" And with that everyone turns and stares right at me...all that's left to do is smile and wave boys just smile and wave.
I would like to explain something else about the traffic situation in Nanjing, and China in general. There is a problem with it. And I'm not saying this as an "outsider" I'm stating a fact that even locals support. Traffic absolutely sucks. To help better explain this I have taken the time to draw you a small sketch of how exactly the street system works in China. Or I guess I could say to the best of my understanding because honestly i don't understand it. On more then one occasion I have sworn we were all going to die while going through an intersection but it was like a synchronized swim move, we all fit together perfectly as if these strangers have been practicing and driving with each other for years.
But without further ado, my map.
So let me walk you through this. That cute little stick figure on the right is me, and my destination, school, is on the left of the paper. First things first is to cross the scooter speedway. And I'm not talking about one little scooter, I'm talking about hundreds of scooters and bicycles. You know how everyone complains that bicyclists are just glorified pedestrians who don't have to follow the law? It's the same in china when it comes to...well...any sort of motorized vehicle, but it is even worse with the scooters. So once I pass through the sea of rusty beeping scooters and mopeds and tetanus on wheels I have made it to the "crosswalk." They should rename this as the "get hit here spot" and the little green man needs a word bubble above his head with an encouraging "good luck!"
Like driving in the US you are legally allowed to turn right on a red turn. In China I wouldn't say this is quite the case. It is absolutely EXPECTED you will turn right on a red turn. And if you don't get prepared for some major honking attacks. There are a few different types of honks I have noticed and I feel it is important to differentiate between them.
1) get the hell out of my way honk
2) hey get out of my lane honk
3) SPEED UP honk
4) you should be turning right now
5) I'm gonna go around you now so please don't turn
6) I'm about to hit you if you don't move (this one I hear a lot!)
7) I just feel like honking
8) I'm sitting in traffic and am bored honk
9) I don't even realize I'm honking
Meow....imagine you are driving to your home 10 minutes away. Chances are you wouldn't use any of the previous mentioned honks. However, in China? You will use all of these in probably a 2 block radius at least once if not more. And it is not a rare occasion to see someone driving down the road with nothing in their way start honking. It's ingrained in them. It's funny because I actually remember reading something about this in Peter Hessler's book River Town and thinking he was just whining or overreacting. But no....it's the truth. I will count the honks on the way to school tomorrow and will report back. I'm just happy my house is down an alley and away from the main road, unlike the dorms where you can hear the continuous honking in your room at all hours of the day.
So back to crossing the street. If you had a random stray thought like this blog just did while crossing the street you probably wouldn't have noticed the car flying through the intersection on the right hand red turn and now you are either
A) being honked at
Hopefully it's A. Although I have yet to see anyone get hit by a car, I know that it is the number one cause of death in China. (Don't worry mom we walk in groups!! Harder to get away with hitting 5 foreigners instead of just one! Or is it just an easier target.....hmmm...)
After I escape through the turning cars I am now "safely" in the target zone, errr I mean crosswalk. The one thing that I do really like about the intersections and traffic lights here is that they all have counters. So whilst in the crosswalk I know I have approximately 25 seconds to get the hell out of the way. Once I have crossed the "4" lanes of traffic (it's actually more like 6) I have made it to the other right turn red light scenario. These make me the most nervous because if you can't make it across and the light turns green, there you are....a squatting duck in the middle of traffic.
The other really important thing that I forgot to mention, is that in China when you make eye contact with a driver while in the crosswalk or while you are in the middle of the road it is so THEY know you see them and you won't walk in front of them, not because they see you and are planning on stopping and letting you cross.
So if all goes as planned you can cross the through the turning cars, dodge a few scooters, and safely arrive at school. It takes probably 3 minutes to cross the street altogether and this is the same for almost every intersection. All in all on a good day I have probably been nearly missed by 4 cars, been honked at less then 10 times and made it to school alive.
Now for the funny part of this whole little scenario. They are trying to control the intersections. There are close to probably 5 police officers at every intersection. One in the middle doing the main directing and four at every corner making sure the scooters don't go out of turn. Some take their job very seriously and will un relentlessly blow their whistles until your scooter wheel is indeed behind the white waiting line. When the light turns green it is as if we are at the starting line, the police officer waves his little red flag and the mopeds go screeching around around him. I can almost imagine the scooters in the front revving their engines as they wait...or are they? All that's left is for the police officer to wear a cute little checkered number and this daily street racing scenario would be complete.
All in all and to say the least...I now know why we had a 30 minute lecture just on traffic safety during our pre departure meeting.