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Published: April 27th 2008
As much as we would like to travel to other locations in China, we are saving our money for our summer trip across Canada, knowing we will have lots of opportunities in the next two or three years to travel to other parts of this country and other nearby Asian locations. Wuhan is quite central and most places we would like to go to are two hours or less by air. Xian, the location of the uncovered terra cotta army is only about an hour and a half away. We are thinking this might be one of our first destinations when we return in September. Beijing and Shanghai are not much further. What makes it a little more difficult is the fact that we can't drive anywhere and would need to take the bus, train or plane to get anywhere.
So in the meantime we are continuing to explore this vast city by bus, taxi, and foot. Yesterday we decided to board the "586" and see where it took us. This is the bus that leaves our area and the one we take to most of our nearby destinations. Traveling on the bus is always an experience and great for
people watching. The fare on the box is ¥1.20 but you only need to use ¥1, which still cracks me up. Of course, everything here only goes to one decimal so I suppose it is the next logical step. There are no "pennies", so to speak. There are always people shouting into their cell phones and jockeying for position on the bus as more and more people board. We usually end up traveling around dinner time during the week since that is when I get home. Of course, this is the craziest time since everyone is either going home or to work. Just when you think that no more people can fit, the masses keep boarding. When we first arrived here, we would have buses stop and we would look in and think to ourselves, "Are you kidding?". People were pressed down to the doorway and the bus driver was sometimes invisible.
After just over two months, we are now waving down buses and jumping in and out with the rest of the population. Looking in from the outside, you wonder how that many people can fit into one vehicle, but when you are actually inside it doesn't seem
Build, build, build...
Yes, that is bamboo scaffolding to the top of these buildings!
that bad! It is often a balancing act to continue standing as the thing weaves in and out of traffic, and slams to a halt here and there as people and vehicles blatantly walk and drive anywhere and everywhere. We have learned to grab hold of whatever we can find, if there is no seat available, and get ready for the ride! Pushing is a way of life, but it is a polite kind of pushing... The only way to get from point A to point B, or from where you are to the door when it is your time to get off is to push your way out. But we are fighting for position with the best of them now! People sense you are "coming through" and move out of the way. And we have learned to look to the right when getting off (and a couple of near misses) because scooters and taxis come barreling by on the right, even at bus stops, if there is room for them to get by!
We didn't get too far on our jaunt yesterday. We stopped at a Holland Style Park, as it was called, and checked out a few
shops in the area. Our next stop was a HUGE furniture mall where we spent a lot of time looking at all the stuff available. Every store here seems to be super-sized but I suppose if you are dealing with a population of millions, that is a fact of life. Our apartment is pretty sparse and we are looking for a couple of chairs, a bigger kitchen table (we'll move the small glass one we have onto our large balcony), and an office chair for Nancy. We saw a small, red inexpensive armchair in the shape of a giant hand that we are going to return and purchase sometime soon!
And everywhere you go...construction, construction, construction. It is non-stop. New apartment/condo complexes are multiplying from one day to the the next along with new hotels, office buildings, and malls. There is virtually no spot anywhere that is void of some type of building project in view. The city is expanding ever outwards swallowing up older areas and replacing them with high-rises and large modern buildings.
And two little interesting tidbits from yesterday... Many women here have a fear of sunshine. The skies have been clear blue for over
a week (are we getting ready for the Olympics??) and the sun is shining brightly. But are people soaking up the rays? Nope. The parasols and umbrellas are out in full force. I suppose it is a good thing but it still seems unusual. There is a large segment of the population (mostly female) that does not want the sun to touch their skin. I have seen women moving from building to building, shielding their faces with newspapers over their heads. Some of the students at the school do the same thing as they walk to the cafeteria on sunny days, which is only a stone throws distance from the main building. Yesterday, there was a young woman on the bus sitting in front of us with her umbrella open, protecting her face from the sun shining through the window. As soon as a seat opened up on the other side, she quickly moved!
Outside our local grocery store last night I ran into a young girl , no more than 10 or 11, holding a TP-Link (router) cardbox box full of silkworms munching away on a layer of mulberry leaves she had placed on the bottom. She had punched some holes in the top of the box but it was open so I got to gaze inside at all the activity. Every once in awhile she would give one of them a little pat! I am assuming it must have been a school project or maybe she was just raising a few for fun. I wanted to get a picture but didn't think quickly enough before her mom came out of the store and they both walked away down the street, her with her silkworms and her mom with the groceries.
And to finish off...the little pleasures of life... Today, for the first time since we arrived, we had eggs (with pepper), bacon, toast, butter, jam, and coffee for breakfast. It has taken us this long to find a source for each of those "western" items! Over time, we have found one of them at a time through word of mouth from others or by exploring on our own. We have yet to find salt and baking powder, two other ingredients we would like to have available in our kitchen. Our small steamed breads, with yet to be determined fillings, are a staple here for breakfast but bacon and eggs are still nice to have on occasion.
Next week we have five or six days off as it is a national holiday, Thursday, Friday, Monday, and Tuesday. And parents' day is Wednesday; Open House and interviews. Should be interesting, as always.
For those of you looking for great current info on China, check out . National Geographic is featuring China in their May issue which is now online.
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