Archive for April 8th, 2008

Is the cry that is sent via text message to those young ex-pats who invariably drive “illegal” scooters ( with no driver’s license, no scooter license, no insurance, so why bother with a secondary offence like not wearing a helmet) as they are pursued by patrol car or motorcycle. Since the fine for retrieving the scooter and getting the licences is worth way more than the scooter itself, most simply turn and quickly walk away from the offending scooter and dissappear into the crowds. To say that Beijing is large is like saying Everest is high – it’s just not possible to comprehend the scale of the place. And yes there is the inevitable pollution, universal smoking, loud horking in the street, bathrooms where you must remember to bring your own tissue and face the door (lucky to have a door), and 12 lane residential roads (read highways) where pedestrians must assume all risk in entering a crosswalk – even if it says its safe. On the other hand, the architecture is spectacular, there are an infinite number of restaurants with well made regional specialties, people are friendly, and personal violence is unheard of. I am as safe here (Ok, except from the cars) as I am in Toronto, even after dark. I am learning a bit about the Chinese pysche through experience: last night we were offered “packaged chop sticks and napkins” for a pittance at a very nice Peking style restaurant, even though the same items were offered for free on the table. The rationale is that by packaging them separately in paper, you are assured that they have not been touched by another hand: they are therefore special, just for your use alone. Similarly, tea offered in paper cup at an office is a higher sign of respect than offering the same tea in a china mug: the mug has been used, the paper cup is pristine and pure. In the same restaurant, a young man was tossing handmade noodles around as entertainment between courses: it quickly became clear why chairs have personal felt “jackets” to cover your own jacket. As he swirled and twirled, he occasionally noodle slapped the back of your chair. “Noodle slap”- a phrase of my own invention – do with it what you will. Well, I must be off – I have no luggage (thank you Air Canada) so therefore must go buy some clothes and running shoes because I am hiking around this city in boots with 3inch heels!.

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