Sunday, January 22, 2012

At a Glance

Looking out the window of bus 306 I found the pace in Shenzhen much
more relaxed. Although quite cosmopolitan, people strolled around
rather than rushing here and there. Appearing as though this were not
one of the most important cities economically, the population lolled
about, enjoyed the sunshine on park benches and lingered at outdoor
restaurants and coffee houses. The people, especially women were
dressed fashionably. The men sported top fashion hair cuts. Everyting
about this town looked well satisfied, affluent and cared for. Overall
the city has a colorful, lush appearance with a cosmopolitan feel.

The climate here is subtropical without the humidity. Today's
temperature was in the low 70's. Quite a change from Wuhan's freezing
temps! Palms and banana trees lined the wide boulevards; elephant ears
provided ground cover. The women here do not seem to fear the sun. I
saw only a few unfurled umbrellas protecting from the sun and women
did not crowd the shady side of the bus like they do in Wuhan. A
strange observation perhaps, but a distinctive one.

All the usuall shopping and eating venues exist here that exist in any
Chinese city: Meters/Bonwe, 361, and various shopping malls exist
alongside the more expensive international shops like Cartier and
Dolce and Gabbana. Closer spaced than in most chinese cities you will
find the standard Starbucks and KFC, the requisite McDonalds' and...
Burger King!

Needing a bathroom but loath to return to the hotel in search of clean
facilities, and knowing that Western eateries usually have the
cleanest ones, I chose to lunch at Burger King. Before ordering my
meal I asked for the restroom and was told there was only a hand
washing sink around the corner from the counter. You should note that
'restroom' is called 'hand wash room' in Chinese. Perhaps the cashier
thought I only wanted to wash my hands because I used that
designation. Because I now wanted a flame-broiled burger in earnest I
ordered food, vowing to seek out the next Starbucks in search of a
clean bathroom. While eating I made notes for my next blog entry. Then
went in search of a restroom again. Finally found one at the KFC in an
underground mall. Without ordering any food I made use of their
facilities. In retrospect it would have been quicker to go back to the

With the advent of New Year, squat mandarin orange trees adorned the
sidewalks and building entrances. For those of you who don't know,
mandarin oranges are actually oranges. They are not tangerines that
are packaged in syrup and canned, as my daughter thought. They grow on
low bushes in this warm climate. It is customary to take such a tree
into one's home to bring blessing for the new year. Everywhere people
were scurrying about with their trees.

Time to board the bus now. Bus 306 promised the longest ride for the
fare so that's the one I boarded. I found all the buses I rode during
my stay in this city were clean and well maintained, uniform as to
their interior, make and model. The seats, though hard plastic were
comfortable and hugged even my more ample posterior, as opposed to
buses I've ridden in other cities. None of the buses I rode while here
were crowded to beyond capacity. In fact they were almost empty, even
though a few times I was riding during what would be considered peak
traffic times. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that this is
a holiday season. Maybe, during regular life the buses do get super
crowded. Nevertheless I enjoyed comfortable rides everywhere I went.

The stops were announced by recording, as they are in Wuhan and
everywhere else I've been, but with one major difference: every stop
was announced both in Mandarin and in English instead of just the
tourist attractions. Which brings me to another observation: during my
entire stay here I was not stared at, pointed at or otherwise remarked
upon. It seems foreigners are a more common phenomenon in Shenzhen
than in Wuhan. What did bring comments was the fact that I speak
Chinese. Many people I conversed with commented on that approvingly.

Here people speak either Mandarin or Cantonese, the dialect of
Southern China and Hong Kong. In fact, the Chinese of New York City
and San Francisco speak Cantonese, a harsher version of Mandarin. With
a little bit of strain I can understand Cantonese, or at least
recognize it when it is spoken. Though some of the words are
completely different, most of what I can catch only consists of
elongated tones rather than the more musical 4-tone range of Mandarin.
Most of the older people I encountered spoke Cantonese.

Other observations from the bus window: few scooters, either motorized
or battery powered. Dedicated bike lanes incorporated into the
sidewalk design, but I did not see many bikes. No errant pedestrians
ganging up to challenge traffic for their right to the road and no
errant dog packs. Here dogs seem to be pampered pets on leashes rather
than filthy pelted service animals of the junkyard variety as I'm used
to seeing in Wuhan.

The bus I was riding took me along the Hong Kong border. Maybe that is
why I heard so much of that dialect. Across the lake I could see that
fabled city and contemplated a day trip there. Maybe. Maybe.

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