Saturday, April 15, 2006

This place never ceases to amaze me. On a windy and cold night I stroll out of my flat to grab a bite to eat. On the way back, food in hand, I see a huddle of Chinese students standing on a shadowy block. If I were to see this in the UK I might think that some immoral activity may be taking place but the sign above the students announcing 'English Corner' removes this possibility. I go over to find out what's going on and it turns out that once a week at 7 on a Saturday evening they get together at English Corner and talk, in English, about whatever they want. I've been persuaded as the only Englishman around to join them so after I finish my dinner I'm going to wrap up warm and see what's going on on this windswept curb side. Enthusiasm abounds - glorious!


kayossity said...

Just wanted to say what a splendid and awe-inspiring country the lad has got us out to. We could easily have spent the entire trip with our mouths open if it hadn't been for the constant interruptions to pop strange and eery (even eary) things into them. Got back to terra firma UK last night and still reeling from the multitude of experiences in such a brief time. But the one totally unexpected one was using taxis (in itself rare for us)driven by beings who have only one goal in mind; Get there ahead of the whole pack, whichever lane or side of the road it takes and whoever is planning to be in the way at the time. In England or anywhere in Europe this would have been terrifying, but in China everyone is doing the same, but at an even rhythm and with absolutely no aggression, but pure skill, peripheral vision, ability to make the car reduce in size to go through impossible gaps and the very generous use of a gentle squeeze on the horn. This last is used by everyone for this purpose and adds a background of 'musicality' to every moment out in a Chinese street, symphonically surprisingly enjoyable in itself. I have been dumbfounded by the skill involved in all of this and so much else. I leave Jonathan to fill in some of the other experiences!

Jonathan Shock said...

Many thanks K,

Probably because so many things were so different when I arrived I didn't really notice that the taxi drivers were actually pretty skillful in their seemingly chaotic weaving. It's difficult to tell what will happen to the situation when the second hand car market starts to open in Beijing and the current one million cars which already leave the roads in a regular state of grid-lock become two, five or ten million. It's worth remembering that because of the one child policy a skewed percentage of people are adults and therefore can legally drive (though most cannot currently afford to).