Sunday, August 22, 2010

在街上行走的中国第一天(China, Day 2, Crossing the Street)

August 4, 2010, Anshan, China.

I sleep in.

So, on this day I went outside in the daylight, out onto the street. I gradually gained my Asia street feet (remembered from a few weeks in Korea), but not fast enough to satisfy my friend Michelle. It was really clear that she was extremely concerned about my survival. She was grabbing my hand and shouting commands like "Stop" "go," and "Ok." It took a while to start to understand what it takes to do that simple thing; cross the street. with several lanes of traffic in two obvious directions and several lanes of what I call back scatter traffic -- people going the wrong way, or on the sidewalk - or in a way that contradicts expectation. With every possible wheeled object and moving in every possible direction it is clearly dangerous to be a pedestrian.

I looked in the Lonely Planet Guide for advice. "The streets of China kill mercilessly. You will need 360 degree vision to cross the street in China." Clearly true, but not much in the way of advice.

The Chinese people, from my observation, seem a highly cooperative group. I know ... I am making really gross generalizations. I can't help it, because I am suffering from the same thing that ails travellers throughout time. I don't have enough information to make more specific generalizations.

But seriously, the traffic seems choreographed. People work together to get where they are going, avoid accidents, and this is extremely interesting. Honking horns is very popular, in fact, it should be done continuously, or at least every time the vehicle changes directions, or anyone changes directions, or if anyone remotely looks like they are going to get in front of your vehicle. Driving directly into oncoming traffic is kinda popular too, but it is extremely important to honk your horn first, so the oncoming vehicles may drive on the sidewalk in order for you to be able to do it.

It's a melee.

We managed to walk to the park and cross several large busy intersections without seeing anyone get killed. We rode back in a cab. It looked like I might be able to get by, but I was definitely frightened by the thought of having to cross the street.

At one point I remember asking if the cab could pull in to the front of the hotel, because I was afraid to cross the street.

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