Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Getting lost in Nanjing

Maybe my age is catching up with me. My dogs are barking. My feet hurt. I'm no stranger to walking in a big city but population wise Nanjing is 10 times the size of little Seattle and I can't read most of the signs. Oh sure, there are some signs in Roman letters but Nanjing's traffic department seems to use them sparingly. I spent today lost and hurting. This city is noisy. Driver honk their horns at everything that moves, including other vehicles. Lots of people here have scooters and they drive them wherever they wish. Sidewalk driving? No problem! The scooters also have burglar alarms. People park their scooters on the sidewalk with hundreds of other scooters. When one gets touched or a loud truck passes by all of their alarms go off together like a hospital nursery full of crying, screaming infants. There's construction everywhere; buildings, stores, a new subway line is going in a few blocks from my hotel and Chinese construction sites run two, maybe three shifts a day. It's loud, I'm lost. My feet are shouting, get the fsck off of us. NOW.

I set out this morning for the Memorial to the Victims of the Nanjing Massacre. One of my tour books had it written in Chinese but every time I showed it to a cab driver they shook their head and rattled something off that I didn't understand. I think it's closed for renovations. I really wanted to see it, in 1937 the Japanese Imperial Army took time out from their busy schedule of conquering most of Asia to make a special example of the City of Nanjing. In a few weeks of true Nazi league genocide 300,000 Nanjing locals were killed in mass murders, head chopping contests, mutilations. Countless women were gang raped by Japanese soldiers or pressed into sexual slavery in the service of the Japanese Imperial Army. Brutality and war go hand in hand but the Japanese went above and beyond in visiting suffering and misery on their conquered subjects here.

I tried walking to the memorial but my feet made me turn back. I went looking for a restaurant district instead, I couldn't find that either. So I came back to the hotel and had a bright idea. I called up a few web pages of places I wanted to see, pages with both Chinese and English. I took my laptop down to the front desk, showed the clerks the pages while I said "taxi" and few times and pantomimed writing. I think it worked, I'm about to go out into the loud night to find out.

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