Strangest Things in China
Do you know these trees?
It is hard to describe the ways of the Chinese people. You can think you understand what is going on, but everything is so different from the way things are done in other countries, and one can assume something but you often find out you were wrong. I find it hard to explain to myself. Constantly.
I've spent many hours on the road in China, either in a taxi, or in a bus, or with a private driver. And I am a driver in Australia, but I surely cannot understand the road rules here. And no one can explain them - it is as if drivers have some strange force that is indescribable.
Certainly drivers drive on the right side of the road, and there are stop lights, and there are speed cameras, and there are double lines in the middle of the road (in Australia we know that means not to cross the lines EVER), and pedestrian crossings where pedestrians have right of way. In China, it seems anything goes, but there must be some system, I just don't understand it.
Cars and taxi's are fitted with seat belts but I've never seen them worn. If I try to use one in a taxi, I am stopped by the driver. Is it bad luck to wear a seat belt in China? Why do they have them in cars if they don't use them. What a waste! Yesterday with my driver from Shangyu to Shaoxing I asked about the seat belt. He told me we didn't have to wear them because he was a good driver. I'd agree with that. He is a good driver. But I asked him about the "other drivers" who might be bad. He laughed again, and said not to worry. He will look after me.
He did this as he drove at 80 kms per hour though on a highway with minimal street lights as cars and taxi's went in all directions (often passing us), and little tricycles with big trailers full of building and other materials, without lights, zig zagged their way around the highway. Why don't people use lights? It wastes their battery life. No need. We can see them. I'm not sure that the eyesight of most Chinese is very good - why do many of my students have difficulty seeing the black board.
Pedestrian crossing? Mmm. It is safer to cross there - but pedestrians have no right of way. Again one must learn the Chinese system to safely get across. I like to walk with another group of locals hoping that in some strange way there is safety in numbers, but it is strange. Buses, cars and bikes dodge around you. You must keep your eyes and ears open.
Traffic lights? Why do taxi's seem to ignore red lights? Why do cars often come head on at you? They've crossed the double lines and now are in the "wrong" lane. Everyone seems to drive in a strange "dodgem" kind of mentality, and I've seen few accidents. In fact, this tour I've not seen one.
Tooting of horns. Buses and trucks are constantly using their horns. It seems they use it to signal (a) they are passing another vehicle or (b) they are approaching a pedestrian crossing and they don't intend to stop and (c) they can see people walking on the road and they want them to get out of the way. And I notice that those on the road either on foot or in a small vehicle, don't seem to notice/hear the horn and continue. Weird.
Again when I ask the Chinese for an explanation, I'm told not to worry. I've long since given up on that and feel strangely safe, but I don't understand it.
Wearing glasses. Now I know many Chinese people wear glasses, and they are supposed to be financially challenged. Especially they say this of the students at this college. But I notice they have many different coloured spectacle frames. Oh, no lenses? It is amazing how many students wear spectacle frames with no lenses. Is it for fashion? Does it help their vision? Why would you bother?
Hot water. I remember the first time we attended a meeting at the school, we were handed a paper cup of hot water. Now it was cold weather, and a hot cup of tea would have been nice, but plain hot water? I've since learned that "it is good for your health" and people carry containers of hot water, some with tea leaves or dried flowers and other strange things floating in it, always hot. I've done a little research and found that there is some sense in the practice. For example if one has been doing a lot of exercise, in Australia we'd reach for some cold water, but I'm told that hot water is actually more refreshing.
We went to the private lounge of a 5 star hotel - and each of us was given a glass of hot water, and it is continually topped up. For free. I must say, I am now enjoying my hot water, but I do appreciate some tea in it too.
Paper cups?? What about the massive problem with rubbish? Wouldn't it be better to use glass or something reuseable? No, you have to wash them. It is easier to throw out the paper cup. Even going to someone's home for tea or coffee you are most likely to get a paper cup.
The organisational skills of the Chinese is interesting. Now to be fair, some MUST be well organised. But at times we experience very strange things. When the foreign teachers are asked to attend events, we do with some fear and trepidation. For a start, the starting time, and venue might change several times, and there's no way you can be sure of being advised of any change. Last Monday night we'd been asked to an "English Salon" and three FT's went, but no one else did. It appears that, due to some complication, the students cancelled the event, but did not advise the "honoured guests." This is common. Last week I was invited to a "International Food Fair" and when I arrived I discovered I was one of the food judges.
Our weekend away last weekend - another example as we had to deal with a tour bus with not enough seats for the passengers, an argument with the tour guide because of misunderstanding of the costs, and not enough rooms at the hotel etc. One does have to maintain a sense of humour.
No one seems to know much about anything. There are few explanations. We were taken to an island in the middle of a huge lake or reservoir, and the boat backed up to give us a good look at some strange trees growing in water. They were in straight rows and certainly planted by humans, but when I asked about the trees, no one could tell me. The tour guide said they were famous because they grew in water. Yes, but what type of tree are they? Do they have a name? It is the same with our whole tour. If we asked for explanation - they looked at us as if we had two heads. They accept what they see without question. It is no surprise that our students have little general knowledge.
I'm the guest speaker at an event tonight - and the information I received was scant. I've had quite a few emails to the organisers trying to find out what time, what room in the university, what facilities I will have. Grrrrrr.
Today is the Sports Meeting - actually for two days (if it doesn't rain - so we must be on 'standby' as it is classes as normal if it rains, and only late yesterday they changed the time for the opening ceremony. Thankfully it is half an hour later, not earlier.
And what are the dates for the next semester? Does anyone know????
And it goes on an on. What mysteries!