It rained here today and we were both kind of tired from walking all those steps the last few days. My trip is winding down, so today I thought I would give you some interesting things I have seen, done and things I have learned while here.
Kaidangku are those funny buttless baby pants everyone keeps asking me about. All the little kids wear them. If the little girls have dresses on they have no panties under it. This is so they can squat wherever when they need to. The other day we saw two mothers kneeling down on the sidewalk next to the building. They had three little kids with them. The little girl had her dress hiked up and a tissue in her hand. Today, we took a walk after the rain and coming home I saw the cutest little boy of course he was squating down and making a little puddle on the ground. The dad just smiled at us as we walked by. I wondered what he was thinking and I wonder if they carry little baby pooper scoopers with them.
That is not nearly as bad as the hocking spitting thing the men AND women do. You know the sound!!! That awful hocking sound (haarrrounchk) and then a big spit after. YUK!!! So disgusting and you never know when it will happen.
Another thing you will see a lot of on a hot day is the men with their shirt rolled up to their arm pits. Not so bad but.....they don't seem to use deodorant or brush their teeth much here. It's not that they are dirty, they are really clean and neat, but every once in a while when you are standing on a crowded bus next to someone you will notice it. You will also notice that the girls don't shave.
You will also see girls holding hands when walking down the street. I guess it is just a feeling of safety for them or so they don't get separated in the crowds.
They girls dress a little differently also. They will wear black pantyhose under a pair of jeans shorts, or those tights that come down past the knee under shorts or a dress. No matter what they are wearing, a nice dress, capris, shorts, they will be wearing a pair of ankle highs with any kind of shoe, sneakers, sandals or a pair of fancy dress heels.
The Lucky Bird is not the only lucky thing for the Chinese. They also have the color red that you will see a lot of here. The big red doors with the knobs that I have taken pictures of must be a lucky thing too. We saw people rub the knobs as they go by. Some of the red seems to be worn off of some of them. The number 8 is very lucky. That is why they are so excited to have the Olympics here on the 8th day of the 8th month in the year 2008.
They are mostly friendly here too. While sitting in the park and watching everyone they will walk by and smile or say hello sometimes in English. This man and baby walked by and smiled. As he walked by a 2nd time he asked in English if I was a tourist. We talked for a few minutes and another lady walked up and started talking and looking at the baby. When we were at the parks we noticed people would be taking our picture too. The younger children seem to notice us and just stare, the ones that are a little older maybe school age tend to look at you and giggle. Sometimes you will hear the older people as we walk past say America and CJ will pick up on something they said about us in Chinese.
Beijing is a really large city. There are many large highways and a lot of buildings. The streets are just lined with stores of every kind.
On the side streets the vendors sell their goods everyday. They have all kinds of vegetables and fruit that they sell off of their carts or off of wagons that are pulled by horses or out of the back of vans. They usually set up around 8 or 9 in the morning and will still be sitting there at 8 at night.
On weekend there are even more vendors selling bedding and clothing and more. The streets are even more crowded with people.
Getting around the city is quite interesting. There are buses, taxis, subways, cars, bikes or on foot.
The bus stops have large signs posted with the bus number and all the stops it makes. There doesn't seem to be a set time schedule. The buses just make their stops along the route and if you miss one bus there is always another not far behind. Sometimes the busses are very crowded and have standing room only and you have to squeeze your way past to get off at your stop. I often wonder if this is why the people here all do Tai Chi. It must help them balance when they are on a moving crowded bus.
There is usually a girl that collects the money if you do not have a bus pass. She will also announce the next stop. Sometimes she helps the driver get across all the lanes of the highway. She will wave her hand out the window letting the others know the bus is trying to get into the far lane and to let him through. There are also electric busses. They remind you of the trolly but there are no tracks. The bus is connected by wires above it and can go one lane on either side of the middle lane to get around traffic.
The busses are not all air conditioned but have rather large windows that let in the air. On some of the busses that take longer routes there are also curtains that can be pulled to block the sun. On most of the busses there is a tv screen behind the driver. Some of the larger busses will have a 2nd tv screen half way back the bus.
You can pay each time you get on the bus but it is much easier to buy a bus pass. CJ bought one for me while I am here. You just buy the pass and can put money on it or recharge it as they say when it is getting low. A bus ride is approximately 15 cents. As you get on the bus you pass your card over the meter and when you get off you do the same. This registers and takes off the amount of the bus ride which shows on the meter to let you know how much money is still on the pass. You can always add money to the card or when you are done you can get a refund.
Our main method of transportation next to the bus and one or two taxi rides is walking. You have to just cross the street when you can. You can go half way and then wait for a break in traffic to cross the other half of the road. Sometimes it is easier if a bunch of people try to cross together. In some areas where there are the larger roadways like 3-4 lanes in each diretion you can go under the street. You just go down the steps and through the hall and back up the steps and you are on the other side.
No matter what type of transportation you use it is an experience. Everyone just cuts in and out of traffic and squeezes in. Sometimes the cars and busses even drive in the wrong lanes to get around. Crossing the street on foot is an adventure everytime. You just have to take your chances and walk between the traffic. If you walk in front of someone they will just blow the horn and keep on going. They are not forgiving.
I don't know what it is, harmony, chi, balance or the atmosphere that makes it all come together. I have never seen an accident or a cop car pull anyone over. I am glad I don't drive in Beijing and now I feel driving in Pittsburgh will be a breeze!!!
There are a lot of dfferent kinds of restaurants around. Chinese and American or a mixture of both. We had a take out veggie pizza one of the first days I arrived. It had green peppers, onions, mushrooms, corn and pineapple on it. They also have a lot of McDonalds, Subway, KFC and Dairy Queens throughout the city. Tomorrow we are going to a Hubei Province restauant with CJ's friends. I will let you know how that is.