View from our apartment
Smog makes beautiful sunsets
The area I am living in is perhaps not typical of the rest of the country, but then again China is a very big country. I am told that this area, called TEDA (Technological Development Area), had very little here 15 years ago. Now it is full of wide boulevards and modern looking high-rises. And they are throwing up more at breakneck speed judging by the surplus of construction sites and scaffolded buildings rising up everywhere you look. This would be a good area to invest in real estate as apparently the prices have been doubling every 3 or 4 years. It also does not have the typical street food vendors so common in Asian cities (which is too bad because there is no selection of supercheap, convenient food near us). Apparently the authorities have decided this will be an upscale model area along the lines of a European or North American city, so besides the wide streets and modern looking apartment blocks there also quite a number of parks and greenspaces. There is a brand new modern looking library and archives building with 1.1 million books (and a foreign books section which I have yet to check out) and free
wireless internet. There is also a brand new (well everything is brand new) funky 60,000 seat stadium.
The Chinese tell me this is a very expensive area to live, and sure enough you see plenty of Mercedeses, Audis and luxury model VW’s (I guess the German’s are doing some good marketing here). Mind you, the cost of living is nowhere near that of North America. Taxis are very cheap: 8 Kwai (this is the local word for the Yuan or RMB) is the minimum, but it gets you 6 kilometres. There are approximately 6.2 Kwai to the dollar, so 8 Kwai is about $1.40. Busses are 2 Kwai, and so is the “Chingway” which is their Skytrain. The Chingway can take you to Tianjin which is the nearest big city and is about 45 minutes away. There is also a highspeed train that can take you to Beijing in under an hour and I’m told it cost 60 Kwai or about $10.
Now I’ve mentioned that everything looks very modern here, but what is interesting is that when you get up close to these modern buildings they look unfinished in the details…or perhaps they are already falling apart.
They have asurplus of labour here, and that is obvious when you see the number of sales people in the stores, but there is a serious lack of skilled labour as it seems everyone only has a sketchy idea of how to do their job. Thus the finishing on all the construction is appalling—paint is haphazardly slapped on, tiles are chipped, etc. The building we live in for instance is probably only 2 years old, but already the lighting fixtures in the elevators have exposed wiring, and sometimes don’t work. The glassed patio railing in our suite seems to be held in with packing tape, the walls in the building’s hallways are filthy and indeed so is everything outside. There seems to be layer of dust and grime on everything, I’m sure partly from the pollution and dust in the air, but also, because the Chinese have a different standard of what is clean and in repair…You can put down modern looking buildings and wide streets but the people are still Chinese, and have their own way of doing things.
The perimeter of the compound also has security cameras and motion detectors at the corners, but I am
The living room tv
in doubt that they are real or working as the guard huts are bare affairs with only maybe someone’s lunch on a concrete counter. Where are the screens that keep watch over the high-tech looking security devices? Besides, anyone can walk into the compound unchallenged, and this morning I witnessed a man walking out with a computer, again unchallenged. I also witnessed a domestic dust-up. A woman was screaming at a man who tried to maintain his calm, and walked away. She followed and tried to hit him. Her high pitched screeching hardly sounded human, and then she started kicking him. He lost it and wrestled her to the ground briefly choking her, and again later punching her in the head. A squad of security guards was moving a bookcase and ignored the incident. Then a few minutes later, as the screaming, punctuated by occasional scuffling continued, I saw a bunch come back. I thought, “Oh here they come. Finally they are going to intervene.” But, no, they went to the fountain to wash their hands. I guess it’s not their job to get involved…
The driving in China is something to behold. I am somewhat familiar with this
Our balcony glass packing-taped together
style, as it is similar to Thailand. The lines separating the lanes have no meaning and drivers have a propensity to use their horn all the time. There is some method to that though, I think, because they are warning each other—I’m passing on the right! I’m to your left, but edging though a lot of chaos! Taxis are randomly honking their horns too, I guess to advertise that they are free to take a passenger. I have seen cars pull 4 point U-turns in crazy traffic, or drive down one way streets, or even the three wheeled motorcycle carts going the wrong way down the freeway! (I say motorcycle, but actually they are banned. All the scooters are now electric and apparently only farmers can get a permit to operate gas powered scooters and bikes. Thailand could learn from this, because if it is as I remember, the streets are clogged with very noisy and polluting 2 stroke scooters and motorbikes). I’ve seen a car pulled over diagonally, blocking both the oncoming traffic lanes because he was buying a melon off a truck selling them by the side of the road. Luckily in this area the traffic is not
bad and there was plenty of room for vehicles to get around him…Oh, and look where you’re walking because cars have priority and they’ll run you down if you’re not careful. Luckily no one seems to speed here. I want to get a bicycle but there is a big problem with bicycle theft, so I was advised to get something second-hand and slightly beat up.
As for amenities, there are some decent foreign restaurants—and by foreign I mean Thai and Indian. Actually both places we went to were combination Thai and Indian. There are also plenty of MacDonald’s and KFCs. The MacDonald’s delivers! The delivery drivers wear red outfits with big red back-packs and ride scooters. They look kind of hilarious. There is a Starbuck’s too but I haven’t been to it yet. We have also found two small stores that cater to expats and have a number of western items for sale—like cheese! The gouda we bought was no more expensive than it would have been in Canada. There are also some large superstores that sell everything from clothing to groceries. Surprisingly, yogurt has become popular and they had a whole aisle full of it, and cheap as hell! A yogurt lover’s paradise! Who would’ve figured it? There is a video place that sells decent quality pirated videos. We bought all 6 seasons of Six Feet Under for about $10. Maria and I also got great massages at a place called Timeless. We received a one hour foot massage, followed by a one hour massage of our heads, shoulders, backs and legs. It cost us $22 each.
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