Edit Blog Post
Published: March 17th 2011
The road outside my flat
fairly quiet as Chinese roads go!
Here we are, already mid-March and yet my last blog entry accounts only of my arrival in Taizhou - now more than 4 months past! It is time, then, for me to skip the narrative and just tell you how I find things to be out here in Taizhou. There is so much to tell that I hardly know where to begin. I think the best idea is to start by recounting my initial impressions of various aspects of my city, school, colleagues and job, then work from these to elaborate how my opinion has (or has not) changed in the intervening months. I shall do this in a series of short thematic blogs, for otherwise I will inevitably lose myself on a twisting path of tangents and we shall never proceed far enough for my blogs to catch up with the date. Here then, are my impressions – sit back, relax and enjoy! 😊
I was forewarned by Seb in Macau that I would quickly need to develop a bolder approach to stepping out into traffic, if I was ever to make it across a road when I got to China. Though there was little
traffic on my drive from the coach drop to my new apartment, (you will recall it was a rather daft hour in the morning), the trip still afforded me a first hand education in the truth of this statement and an initial (mildly disconcerting) impression of the 'rules' of the road in China.
As we drove on into the night, two girls stepped off the pavement and began to cross the road some distance ahead of us. As they reached the centre of the road and we neared their position, I grew increasingly alarmed to note that neither we, nor they, appeared to be slowing down and this was rapidly turning into a bonafide game of 'Chicken'. They pressed on unflinchingly towards the pavement. We continued forward at full throttle on a direct collision course. With half a second to spare, John's horn blared (Chinese for 'I'm here and I'm coming through and I don't intend to stop!') and he swerved very slightly to the right. Their hair and scarves whipped about their faces in the draft as our little yellow car flew past, leaving perhaps an inch between us and them. My shock and mild terror would,
I'm sure, have been apparent to anyone who cared to gaze upon my countenance at that moment. Equally apparent, however, from the entirely unperturbed countenances of my fellow inhabitants of the car, was that this sort of dramatic, knife-blade maneuvering was nothing at all out of the ordinary in China!
Indeed, you take your life in your hands every time you get in a taxi, cross the road, or in fact just try to walk from A to B here in Taizhou. People simply drive anywhere that there is space; be that on the right side of the road, the wrong side of the road...or the pavement! The air is filled with a constant cacophony of blaring horns that continues day and night. The roads and pavements filled with an endless stream of cars, scooters, buses and rickshaws, ducking and weaving around each other in an ongoing battle to gain an extra metre by any means necessary. Beth, my colleague and flatmate often likens crossing the road here to a real-life game of frogger, which is an incredibly apt analogy. In short, the roads in China are pure crazy!
As is standard here, there are no
safety concerns amongst Chinese drivers, especially on scooters – you will regularly see three of four people on an electric scooter, a small child (perhaps 3 or 4 years old) standing in the leg space, girls riding pillion but facing to the side or people driving a scooter whilst holding a large umbrella in their other hand! No one wears a seatbelt, in fact most taxis don't even have seatbelts in the back. Needless to say, accidents are fairly regular occurrences. Luckily, the volume of traffic on the roads means that people rarely travel at any great speed, so the accidents tend to be minor. It is incredible the way being hit by a car seems to be viewed as something pretty trivial here.
One of the first occasions I witnessed this, I was sat with two of my colleagues grabbing lunch at a Chinese fast food place, (lovely), when out of the window we noticed a commotion. We looked to see what was the matter and were greeted by the sight of one man pulling an elderly gentleman to his feet and another pulling his slightly mangled bike from under the wheels of a small truck. He
had apparently jumped or been thrown clear of the truck and seemed relatively unharmed. Still, most people in the UK would be in some sort of shock after such and incident and all sorts of insurance details, etc. would be demanded. Not in China though! As soon as the bike was clear, the truck drove away! The people who had pulled the old man free simply gave him a cheery pat on the back and walked away. To his credit, he too picked up his damaged bike and shuffled off with it, unconcernedly, into the distance.
More recently, I was actually in a taxi that took out a lady on an electric scooter. As we pulled of from some traffic lights and turned the corner, there was a loud thud. The taxi ground to a halt and the driver and I turned to look through the rear window. Sure enough, there was a woman and a scooter lying in the street behind us. I'm pretty sure that the driver would have carried on his way had he not had a Westerner in the back! (Apparently stopping to help at the scene of an accident here is an admission of liability). As it was, he reluctantly got out of the car and went over to the woman. Far from any show of sympathy or responsibility, he seemed to be shouting at her for getting in the way! The lady, once again, merely dusted herself off, picked up her spilled belongings (a hat and a bike lock) and got back on her scooter. As the taxi driver returned to the car he quickly checked it over for damage and pulled something from near the rear wheel. We carried on to a large junction further up the road, where he surreptitiously wound down his window, glanced about him, then threw a chunk of plastic from the scooter into the road!
It really is a whole different world out here! 😊
Tot: 0.215s; Tpl: 0.063s; cc: 10; qc: 53; dbt: 0.0219s; 1; m:saturn w:www (184.108.40.206); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.4mb