Wednesday, October 01, 2014

I'm Back in China

At the supermarket I saw rolls of toilet paper for sale, the brand name is “Face”.   A popular brand of Chinese condom is called "Jissbon".  There's a brand of Chinese made cars with the name of "Riich". I know not whether those are unforced errors, cultural misunderstandings on my part or marketing genius for a unique market.

The more I come here the more I realize that I don't really understand the place. To me some of the food is strange, a distant echo to some of the Chinese food that I enjoy in the States.  The Chinese really seem to like fast food and have Chinese fast food chains, we tried several and they're dreck. Drivers are arrogant, pedestrians are determined but stupid and beat and traffic cops are either blind or don't care so I've seen some interesting near misses along with one entirely avoidable accident (hint: don't make a right turn from the center lane).  Or, as Wikitravel rightly warns about traffic safety where I am now in Chengdu, Sichuan:

Traffic can be insanely hectic and motorists as well as cyclists and other pedestrians often have a complete disregard of you, the pedestrian. Beware when crossing streets; even when the WALK sign is green, (this means nothing to them or to the Police), traffic taking a right or left turn even when they are not permitted to turn will try to run you over or honk at you to make way for them. Accidents are commonplace as are deaths. Look every direction but up. Watch out for taxi drivers, bus drivers and private car drivers who have absolutely no regard for your life. Also watch out for motorists, they are all unlicensed riding silent electric motorbikes coming at you from the left, from the right, from behind and from the front. To stay safe, it is best to walk with a crowd, preferably in the middle.

In Chengdu I watched an old lady slowly cross 6 lanes of traffic lane by lane in a pedestrian crosswalk against a red don't walk sign while pushing an even older lady in a wheelchair.  Cars, trucks and scooters whizzed by blaring their horns, each old lady didn't seem to notice, it was probably just another mundane trip to the store for them.  Those same cars, trucks and scooters would've thought nothing of whizzing by if the old ladies were crossing those 6 lanes with  green walk signal.

Everyone, especially in style conscious Beijing, seems to have an expensive cell phone China is the home office of counterfeit everything so all of the iphones I've been seeing could be knock offs, same with the fancy Samsungs.  I've seen knockoff Birkenstocks for sale here, I call them Knockinstocks. We took the Beijing and Chengdu metros all over and I kept thinking of the term, "Chinese firedrill". Everyone's packed tightly backside to navel and bellowing at each other or into their cellphones.

In Beijing I noticed much less of the the nasty Chinese habit of spitting in public than on past trips. But in Chengdu I hear that regrettably loud throat clearing followed by loud expectoration, or as I've heard it called, the Chinese national anthem, all too frequently and watch out so that my feet don't get splashed.

Eleanor has been indispensable on this trip.  The average pet dog in China understands more Mandarin than I do and I know from past solo trips here that getting anything accomplished when you can't read, write or speak is next to impossible.  Eleanor can't read but she does speak 4th grade Mandarin and that really is making the grade for us.

I had read that the central government in Beijing had a nationwide campaign to rid the country of Chinglish for the 2008 Olympics but they seem to have forgotten about Chengdu, examples such as these are everywhere.  

We'll be in China for another few weeks with more destinations in Asia to come.

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