Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Sunny +70 = Frolic!

Three major events happened while I was out yesterday: buses broke down everywhere and the sky was full of kites. Each of those events merit their own entry, right? And you’ll read them soon. My thoughts drifted into that scary territory called ‘Culture Shock’, and you’ll read about that, too.

Maybe my eyes were set on ‘scan’ and I picked up on a lot of stuff. Maybe this is just a day to be prolific. Could be a combination of both. Who knows? All I do is write blog entries. I hope they are entertaining and thought provoking to you. I know I really enjoy writing about the things I see and do here.

And that is what I want to tell you about: things I saw while out yesterday. Things that didn’t belong in the other posts.

Like the woman who was crossing a very busy street. Luckily for her, there were plenty of other people crossing. Matter of fact, this intersection was so busy that a traffic policeman was monitoring and governing the flow of traffic. Good thing for this particular pedestrian, too. She was so absorbed in reading, of all things, an eye chart, that she… bumped into the man walking in front of her. She gets a plus for testing her eyes. Too bad she was doing it while walking. Another plus: she bumped into a human walking, rather than a bus, driving! That could have gotten messy.

And then, there were the brides in wedding dresses. Here, the brides prepare their wedding album in natural settings as well as in studios. So, they traipse all over town, sometimes with their be-tuxed grooms in tow, having their picture taken in strategic locations. Being as the area I was at not only had a vast expanse of grassland along the river, it also had a terrace with sculptured gardens. I had often looked at that garden as I passed by on the bus, crossing the same bridge I walked on that day. I had vowed I would figure out how to get to that garden and walk through it; now I know how: be a bride! Your photographer will take you there, for just a few hundred Yuan. On the positive side: at least the brides get more than one wear out of their hyper-expensive dresses.

Before I got to the sculpted garden, I encountered a little slice of heaven, right here in the city. Who knew such places exist in Wuhan? Maybe the wedding photographers did. Still, that little creek, burbling away within its channel, set deep into a ravine to discourage any who might disturb its natural beauty stopped me in my tracks. So charming and peaceful was this part of my walk that I decided this would be the picture I would include with this entry.

Now for the ominous-sounding portion of this entry: the Man in the Silver Car. As I was walking along that long span of a bridge a new-ish silver car pulled over, blocking the right hand lane (no such thing as a shoulder here; it is all road – even the sidewalks). As I guessed, he was offering me a ride. Being as I was in the market to walk, I politely declined his offer.

It is not the first time someone has offered me a ride since I’ve been here, and I have accepted rides from strangers before. Here, the fear of rape, robbery or murder doesn’t exist for me. People are just genuinely nice and want to help the big foreigner get where she’s going. Or they just want to have a chance to mingle with foreigners. All the times I’ve been in China, and in all the time I’ve been in Wuhan I’ve never been assaulted, or even accosted in a threatening manner. As I walked on I pondered that.

I would never get in a car with a strange man in the States, but here I have no problem with it. Walking at night in the States was an exercise in folly, and walking in certain neighborhoods, or, for that matter driving in certain neighborhoods, no matter what the time of day could be considered a suicide attempt. I feel safer walking here with money dripping out of my pockets than I ever did in the States, where anyone can just get randomly shot. What a sad commentary, don’t you think?

Riding the bus home, there was that chubby, no make that downright fat little boy that plopped himself right next to me and promptly fell asleep. In his right hand he held a kite, nicely rolled up and sheathed in its pouch. In his left he had a bottle of orange soda, two-thirds drunk. While he never let go of his kite, his soda bottle fell from his hand once he got good and asleep. Before it could go rolling all over the crowded bus, a passenger standing in front of me picked it up and put it back in the boy’s lap. It rolled right back off. I grabbed it before it hit the floor and tucked it into the collar of his jacket. The boy woke up shortly after that and wiped the sweat from his face and head. Unfortunately he used the back of his right hand to do so, still never letting go of his kite, which would have poked me in the eye had I not been quick and ducked away.

On the last leg of the trip home, I encountered something I had only witnessed one other time since being here: emergency response vehicle sirens (see ‘What’s Missing?’ entry). I looked out the window of the bus and saw 5 fire trucks, lights ablaze and sirens wailing, rush through the intersection and head to some destination unknown to me.

My first thought was: ‘I wonder if they’re headed to a Chinese fire drill?” And then I realized how uncharitable that sounded, although it was quite funny. Belatedly I gave way to my hope that, wherever they were headed, they would be able to avert or at least minimize the tragedy they were called on to respond to.

That’s it. All senses full, replete with experiences to write about, I walked the quarter-mile to my apartment with nothing further of note happening. The rest of the night passed peacefully, except for the fact that I ate too much and did not sleep well because of it.

No need to blog about that.

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