Tuesday, August 16, 2011

day four

Ah, day four. We're moving right along. Day four consisted of what we thought was one quick government appointment but ended up being a few things. The funny thing is that everything our guide told us would take "just a minute" took an hour. Maybe not a real hour but an hour in standing-around-with-a-toddler time. Whatever it was it was longer than a minute. Like two containers of animal crackers, two suckers, four cookies, a bottle of water, and 20 trips up and down the escalator hour. And the things that he said would take 20 minutes took a minute and a half. I'm not sure what kind of time they use here but it's definitely not what I'm used to. When we were in Mexico on a mission trip a few weeks ago the missionaries kept reminding us to be patient and flexible b/c things in Mexico change a lot. They called it "Flexico" time. I think China uses a similar clock. Only they reset it at random unexpected times so you think you're back on real time but actually aren't.

So here's what we accomplished today. It was a lot of hurrying up and waiting but it took up our whole morning so that's good. We appreciated doing something other than walking around the block(s). First we went back to the Civil Affairs office to pick up our paperwork that we either dropped off two days ago or they started two days ago. Not even sure what the "paperwork" was but it was important. We were on our way to the Notary's office next but realized I didn't have my passport with me. Our guide got really big eyes and declared we must immediately go back to the hotel to get it. So we did. Then we went to the Notary's office and stood/sat around for a long time. Again. Time warp China time. Then we got a very important folder handed to us (with a ton of notarized papers in it) and went to some government office where you get passports. Hope had her picture taken for her passport and we stood in line and another line and paid $30. Turns out we never needed our passports so I'm not sure why the guide had us go back to the hotel and get it earlier. Another you-just-do-what-you're-told-in-China moment. And that was it for our morning. Hope was about as good as any child would be which isn't that good. But again, who can blame her? This whole process just kind of sets her up to be bored and get in trouble.

Which brings me to lunchtime. Otherwise known as dumplingtime for the next 10 days in Beijing. And any frustration I had from the morning quickly disappeared with every bite. Nine dollars for two plates of dumplings (beef/carrot and pork/cabbage if you're dying to know and I know you are, right?!), steamed broccoli in some sort of amazing soy sauce-sauce, and two cans of room temperature Coke. The best deal in the world despite having no ice for the Coke. That's how good the food is. I seriously may shed a tear or a million when I eat my last meal there.

Random Chinese thought of the day...Traffic. I tipped our driver extra today because he hasn't gotten us killed in a car accident. The fact that anyone survives driving on Chinese roads is a miracle. Actually, it is amazing that anyone who walks, rides a bike, or is standing near a curb survives a day here. It is unbelievable. The thing that's weird about it is that is seems super chaotic and crazy but it isn't. It's like every Chinese person expects it and knows where every bike, pedestrian, car, bus, and random dumb American like me will do next so they all somehow avoid major collisions at the very last second and none of them seem taken back by it all. It may be by only by a millimeter but I have seen my share of close calls the last few days. I keep thinking we're on some Hollywood set where the car starts driving and you hear, "Cue the bus that almost sideswipes the car" and lo and behold the bus shows up and does exactly what it was told to do. Then the director says, "Cue the sweet old lady on the old metal bike" and poof! there she is and she does what she's supposed to do which is to nearly get run over by the car and she looks as if she's taking a leisurely bike ride in the park. She doesn't even blink. And then the director yells for the finale and every bike, pedestrian, car, bus, moped, and taxi takes to the street and they all play their parts and follow their paths to a t. Paths that seem chaotic but never actually are. That's what it's like here. But it's the finale every single minute of the day. Amazingly controlled chaos. I did, however, almost get hit by a motorized bike today and I was definitely not given a script to follow. We were crossing the street. A one way street and we looked a mile down the road before we crossed to make sure we were safe. But we neglected to look the "wrong way" down the road where no cars should be coming. Ever. Because to us a one way street means a one way street. But there was a nice old man on a very quiet motorized bike who was going the wrong way against traffic and he got to within an inch or so of the empty stroller I was pushing. I didn't even hear him till I smelled him. That's how close. And he casually smiles at me and lets me walk on and goes on his way. Give me a heart attack and then smile and bike away. China.

click here to see pictures from today

1 comment:

  1. You will get ice cold drinks in Guangzhou and the a/c will actually be cold, too :)

    I asked our Beijing driver if they had many accidents and she said not, just in the country/suburbs, and I never saw a single one in two weeks there. The only one I heard of was one on the airport road-on the day that my paperwork was being delivered by DHL that would free us to move on to Guangzhou, so the DHL truck was delayed about six or seven hours by the accident!