Sep 17, 2005

Walmart Supercenter

The day before Mid-Autumn festival at the local Walmart Supercenter in Beijing, all the locals were out buying crabs and treats for their family get-togethers. I even saw one housewife in the liquor department who brought along Junior's college tuition to buy a face-giving decanter of Louis XIII.

Sep 15, 2005

“Motivational banner”

This banner was hanging at a construction site near Tsinghua University. It reads "党的先进性是党的生命线" (“The Party's advanced technological nature is its lifeline.”)

After reading that, do you feel motivated to do your part to help the masses strive towards a common good, discard the old ways, advance societal harmony, and overcome the meddlesome Western imperialists?

Sep 10, 2005

A purse for men

One of the requisite men's fashion accessories in China is something that's not quite a woman's purse, but also not quite something that men should carry. The bag could be described as the “European carryall” seen in the Seinfeld episode “The Reverse Peephole”.

To stop myself from laughing, I just remember, “It's not a purse. It's European.”

Sep 5, 2005

Return flight

My return flight to Beijing from the US helped me ease back into the Chinese way of life.

The adjustment started on the 12 hour flight as I witnessed an old Chinese woman who was in a tizzy because she desired two adjacent coach seats she could sprawl out on to accommodate her back. American airline corporations give minimal consideration to providing additional customer care to coach passengers, and the whole Confucian elderly-respect thing is not part of their corporate philosophy. There was nothing the stewardesses could do, as there were no empty seats. It was an unfortunate situation that couldn't be resolved. Hopefully someone suggested to the woman that next time she address this problem in advance by arranging for a business or first class seat, or just purchase two adjacent coach seats. Considering Chinese live in extended families and pool resources, it's a shame the woman's family didn't arrange for her to have more comfortable arrangements in advance.

After a Melatonin- and wine-induced nap, I woke up to use the lavatory. The previous passenger neglected to flush and left a parting gift in the bowl, thereby allowing me to re-adapt to the cultural characteristics of sanitation and consideration towards others when in public.

After passing through the Beijing airport, I was adjusted. Something that happens without fail whenever you exit the baggage claim at Beijing airport is the barrage of “Har-LOW, Taxi! Har-LOW!” emanating from the gang of unlicensed cab drivers, who seem to have a collective IQ of 50. After having been through that airport enough times, I'm used to it and it's more of an amusement now.

Sep 1, 2005

Bizarro driving in the Bay Area

After spending some time in more polite areas of the US, it was educational to have a few days to spend in the San Francisco Bay Area. My conclusion after this trip is that south of Gilroy, the southern border of the Bay Area, you'll find considerate and educated drivers. North of it, you'll find inconsiderate and dangerous drivers. The primary example I have is that of driving and passing in the correct lanes on the highway. As most people know from the California DMV code, the leftmost lane is used to overtake slower traffic. When overtaking a slower-moving vehicle, one moves to the leftmost lane and then at a point when it is safe, changes back to the right lane. One does not continue to drive in the leftmost passing lane for 10 or 20 or 30 miles, maintaining the same speed as the rest of traffic. This rule is not followed once inside the perimeter of the Bay Area.

You'll know you've entered the Bay Area by the “different” driving style. The arrangement of traffic inside the Bay Area is reversed: the leftmost lane chugs slowly while traffic moves progressively faster in the right-hand lanes. You'll not be able to change this highway custom, you can only harmonize with the environment and adapt to it. Otherwise you'll eventually go crazy and drive yourself off a cliff.

What is the scariest thing about driving in the Bay Area?
Answer: You will be sharing the road with this:

Note: The photo above was captured in Palo Alto, not Beijing. Was I was witnessing an episode of Punked, or did she just punch out from her job at the body shop and forget to remove the arc welder mask?