Posted by: Lotus Light | June 11, 2012

Road Trip!!!

Travelling anywhere in China faster than a horse can take you means you miss just so much of what is happening. But… China is too big to ride a trusty steed and actually get very far. So there are times when you just have to take a road trip.

This weekend was one such time. The Foreign Affairs Office took us on our annual weekend away, this time to Luoyang to see the White Horse Temple and the Longman Grottoes. I thoroughly enjoyed both, but I also really enjoyed the journey as well.

Road trips give all sorts of experiences and emotions. First of all – gratitude. I am so truly grateful that I am not a construction worker or service station bathroom attendant. Marking a stack of papers disappears as an onerous and horrible task in comparison.

Construction worker ‘housing’ complete with patriotic flag

Wistfulness could be next on the list. I see glimpses of lives I will never lead in places I will never live. Quick images of farmers in the fields, cyclists on their way to work, or shopkeepers waiting for customers. I will never know these people, and their lives will forever be a mystery to me.

Perplexed is another feeling that drifts past on the journey. Recycled police cars now do duty wedged between the cliff and safety railings, flashers still attached to warn drivers that the police MIGHT be around. Still, it is a great use for cop cars past their use by date. And as there are not enough old police cars, then a large cardboard cutout of a police van with its flashers will be stationed at intervals. Other places are a little more exciting – they have statues of police officers stationed along the road.

Complete with cardboard police officer

Bemusement also at the number of heavy transports on the road. China is rapidly being transported from one side to another. Once on the major highways the semis outnumber passenger cars 100 to 1. They are whacking great big things as well, carrying everything from donkeys to the weirdest shaped bits and pieces of machinery you’ve seen. The number of car transport semis is amazing. Semis in China are longer than those in Australia anyway, but the car transports are at least eight cars long, and double-decked. Not so bad?? Well, now the companies have figured out that if they turn the top deck into a miniature runway, they can fit 16 cars on top, and eight underneath!

One semi accident had bags of garlic spilled across the highway – crushed garlic by the ton!

Then there is sheer joy. Joy – in driving for hour after hour? Ohhh yes!

One of the things travellers from any country love when they travel to any country is the ‘creative’ use the locals have for our own language. Everyone has good Spanglish, Gerglish etc stories to tell and in China there is a whole slew of fantastic Chinglish signs. And I have a sub-genre – Road Signs. The road signs range from the deeply profound to the totally banal; from the boringly almost normal to the hysterical.

This road trip was no different. I managed to find a couple of good ones for my collection.

(Please forgive the photography sometimes being a bit dodg. It is very difficult when you are in the back seat of a car, windows or windscreen not the clearest and with a driver who does not understand WHY you want to stop every kilometre or so to take photos of road signs! All he wants to do is get from A to b as rapidly as possible. Sleep (or a cranky wife!) awaits.

One of my favourites that resonates deep within my soul was one I found a couple of years ago. “Life comes but once. Do not drive inverse.” I often lay awake at night pondering on the depth in that one. Unfortunately, after several computer meltdowns, it has disappeared from my photographs, but never from my heart!

The curiously comforting image of my car attacking a big semi with a camera nearby to record my attack reminds me that I can be famous here.

Attack on semis

Then we have the interesting command “Do not drive tireply.” Tire ply – I’m not to have tires with ply on them?? Ok, but that could be difficult. It’s replacement – “Do not drive tiredly.” also strikes me as rather a odd command. I could drive fast, or slow, or even backwards – but driving tiredly makes my car sound quite exhausted. Will one wheel fall off from sheer lethargy?

Then we have a series of relatively normal signs that somehow don’t seem to have made it to the consciousness of the Chinese drivers. There is the fairly standard “Waste discarding prohibited” that really hasn’t made much of an impact. How about “No drunken driving”? This one often has the bottle of alcohol flying out of the window. Is it OK to throw alcohol out in disregard of the no waste discarding sign? Ah… alcohol is not waste you argue!!  

Then my new

favourite in this line. “Do not use mobile phone and drive.” HUH???? Didn’t the sign writer know that Chinese drivers have the mobile welded to their ears upon receiving their driver’s licence?? “Buckle Up” also belongs in this category, occasionally heeded but quite unusual to see. It is almost a reflection on the driver’s skill if a passenger wants to wear the seat belt. 

This trip gave me two more quite special ones to add to my collection. Unfortunately, the first made me laugh too much to be able to photograph it, so you will have to take my word for it. “No unlawful parking and watering on the highway.” I will allow the gentlemen readers to figure that one out for us.

There are so many more – and they will doubtless be added to in the future.  🙂

And finally one I leave to you to decipher ….

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Posted by: Lotus Light | June 7, 2012

Shameless Advertising!

Chen Lu village

http://rearcurtain.ca/?p=1662

This link takes you to my first ever ‘outside-China’ article published. As you can imagine I am pretty excited. It is a documentary about a village not too far from Xi’an where they make pottery. A pretty interesting village.

Posted by: Lotus Light | April 2, 2012

Chai-Na!

Headache!

Xi’an Textile City Art District is one of the coolest places to hang out in Xi’an.  In the early 1950s Xi’an established a centre for textile manufacture – one of the few areas then that could be called a ‘Town’.  It combined factory and living areas, noodle shops and recreation spaces.  This town was home to thousands of textile workers.  But…as the textile industry in China died in the 1990s, so did Textile Town until 2009 when it was infused with new life as an art district similar to Beijing’s 798 Art Zone, Milan’s Tortona Art District or New York’s Soho District.

 

Rock art

Here, in Textile City Art District, young artists could rent inexpensive studio space and experiment with new forms of creativity; galleries held shows of the new art works; rock musicians used the huge spaces for rock concerts.  Visiting international artists came here to work in the studios, inspiring young locals and helping them with contacts and advice.  This disused and forgotten space became a government- awarded model cultural and creative industry park.

One of the really good things to do is to wander in and out of the studios, talk to the artists as they work, and if anything catches your fancy, you can always take home an original!

Studio

My downfall is usually the ceramics studio – oh those teapots and coffee mugs…    The artists are friendly and don’t seem to mind strangers just dropping in.  Many of them live here, with a bedroom above the studio, and if you are lucky, the kettle just might be on and you could be invited for a cuppa.

Wheel and chair

 

The textile factory had its own train station, which has morphed into a photographic studio and coffee shop.  There were a couple of noodle shops great for sitting under the trees for a snack and a beer, and an upmarket restaurant at the far end of the area.

BUT… this wonderful space is soon no longer going to be with us.  I visited a couple of weekends back for an exhibition opening, and the peripheral buildings were being torn down.  Chai-na strikes again!!  The space will be remodeled and turned into a traditional art centre.

Chai - meaning to tear down

And down it comes….

Field of (lost) dreams

The rubble is reused for other buildings in other places.

Loading bricks... women have equal opportunity work in China. 🙂

 

A large sign over the main building is doing the countdown to complete closing… one by one the lights on the sign are going out.  In less than 100 days the artists will take their canvases, sculptures, acrylics, paints, images and disappear into the night.

The lights are going out. Countdown....

People are still living in the grounds, workers as well as artists.

War zone....

But life goes on…

Washing day in the deconstruction.

Why is this wonderful place being destroyed?  In a few weeks, it will be remodelled and turned into a gallery for traditional Chinese art.  The artists currently living there believe that the powers-that-be don’t like modern art or modern music,  that it has overtones they don’t approve of, and as such – is of ‘low taste’.  So this incubator for art and music is being destroyed.

Painting - Wenchuan earthquake

I don’t know where the artists will go – they don’t know either.  There are very few places that offer affordable studio/living space around.  But the loss of this space makes Xi’an measurably poorer.

Unlucky charm

 

Posted by: Lotus Light | March 1, 2012

Koh YaoYai

I was lucky enough to be invited to a mate’s wedding in Thailand. It was on Koh Yao Yai, an absolutely beautiful place to live, gorgeous to visit, and very romantic for a wedding. Dawn at BangRong Pier brought movement on the river and the glimpses of islands in the distance.

The commuters start early to head off to waters unknown, using the traditional long-tail boats.

Morning commute

The farm houses made of plaited bamboo and thatched rooves work so well in this climate, and underneath most of the houses, the locals hang several hammocks. Ideal way to spend the hot summer hours.  As soon as the roof goes on new construction, the hammocks are installed for the workers.  🙂

Farm house

My little abode wasn’t a farm house though… 🙂

My 'donga' in the jungle.

My apartment was fun.  This gorgeous verandah, with its massive sofa surrounded by mosquito netting made me feel very ‘mem sahib-y’, and I enjoyed curling up on that reading during the midday.  Early morning the wooden chairs were just right for sitting in the morning sun, drinking tea.  Inside was a large air-conditioned bedroom with a massive bed.  🙂  Beside that was a nice sized ante-room as spare space, clothes storage and bathroom, but with the shower outside, open to the sky.  Nice after a swim or early in the morning.

Next-door neighbour

Lots of birds lived near me, but each morning I would hear these little fellas skipping around the treetops, and running up and down the banana and palm fronds.   Much nicer to wake up to than the steady growl of traffic I have in Xi’an.

Resort rice paddy

The area retains  local traditions and industries – rice paddies are still cared for, next door a rubber plantation is filled with trees holding small black cups to catch the sap, mats made from the rubber dry under houses.  A quick look at the long-tail boats show that as well as the tourist boats many are set up for fishing, lobster farms are close by and big fish traps are within a short boat ride.  Tourism is growing, but not taking over (yet).

Hard day's fishing

OK – this one was maybe break time.  Other fishermen I saw were very busy.  But this looked pretty good to me.  Nice peaceful hidden lagoon, shade during the heat, lovely surroundings.

Sunset

One of the things I really miss in China – beautiful skies.  But here we had glorious sunrises and sets, beautiful cloud formations and reflections in the water. Very inspiring and very peaceful.

Boat graveyard - tsunami reminders.

Even surrounded by so much beauty, and for me, luxury, there are still reminders that things in the world go very badly wrong.  I met tsunami survivors – one who spent 6 months in hospital having numerous operations to repair the damage caused by the tsunami.  This boat graveyard was where the boats were tossed by the waves.  So many people I spoke to talked about how lucky they and their families were.  They spoke of fear and hiding and hoping, but mostly of luck and gratitude.

Lovely ladies lounging at the pool

On a lighter note – decorations for the wedding.  🙂

End of spring beauty

Koh YaiYai is WARM – so spring flowers arrive early – and depart when the heat arrives.  This gorgeous lotus was one of the few remaining in the resort lotus lake.  It’s beauty is not diminished by its age.

The Triffids exist!

And there are some very strange plants… anyone know what this is?  I loved the shapes and ‘alien’ look.

Romantic wedding

And the reason for this lovely visit… Beautiful wedding, beautiful setting.

The islands and clouds - just magic!

The obligatory islands image from this gorgeous place.  But with those amazing clouds as well.

A wonderful few days in a wonderful place!

Posted by: Lotus Light | February 2, 2012

Disappearing China

With nearly 50% of the population now living in cities, Chinese rural villages are disappearing rapidly.  Villages close to cities are subsumed almost daily, retaining little of their original form.  They are replaced by ‘beehives’ of buildings, shopping streets and blank walls.

The rural villages disappear more slowly, and disappear differently.  Villagers build new homes, allowing the old to disintegrate.  The styles become ‘modern’, and old techniques of building are forgotten.  Fewer people live in the villages – usually only the very young, the old and a few young wives to look after the elderly.

Water tank

This water storage tank used to be filled with water and each morning families would come here to wash clothes and pass along local news. In summer children would swim here.   Today, it has become a wasteland, no longer the community centre.  A rubbish dump.

Information wall

Painted walls like this one gave work to the local artists and were one method of passing along ideas and concepts in times when there was no ready access to TV, radio or newspapers.  Used for propaganda?  Sure, but also for creating a community.

Local materials, local knowhow.

The skills are no longer being transferred from generation to generation.  Building materials are now brick and cement, constructed by hired gangs, not local neighbours.  Materials are brought in from outside, and houses lose their unique traditional flavour in favour of a bland uniformity.  Houses in rural Guangdong look like houses in rural Shaanxi.

Traditional style house

Traditional houses in Shaanxi villages were built with on a ‘half-house’ design, with a single angled roofline.  The back and sides were high and without windows.  Families built like this, with houses facing each other across a small courtyard.  This meant each son could have his own ‘apartment’, private and connected at the same time.  It was also cheaper than a more usual two-angled roof design.  This one is a little fancy – clearly this family were a little wealthier.

Traditional house design

Along with the disappearing villages, is disappearing lifestyle and cultural traditions.  Weddings are being held in hotels rather than in family courtyards.  Funerals no longer have the villagers carry the coffin.

Spirit lanterns

These spirit lanterns are used during the funeral and on the annual anniversary of the death of a family member.  They are to guide the spirit home.  With so many villagers leaving their home village, their purpose becomes more important, but less possible.

Money and warm coats

Qing ming jie or Tomb Sweeping Day is when families go to the tombs of their ancestors, clean them and burn spirit money, clothes, houses etc to ensure the ancestors have these necessities in the spirit world.  With fewer people in the village, this tradition is slowly dying.  Family members away from home will burn the paper offerings on street corners in the city , but again, this is slowly dying.

Local elder eating his lunch in the street, looking for a little company

Other cultural traditions are rapidly disappearing as well. In October, the Mid-Autumn Festival occurs and traditionally families made ‘moon cakes’ – yuebing.  These decorated pastries were filled with bean paste, nuts, dried fruits, meats etc.  Savoury and sweet, they were the highlight of many a child’s year.  Today few people make their own yuebing, finding it easier to buy them mass produced from the bakeries.  Everyone will tell you the flavour is nowhere near as good.  The skill in making yurbing has almost disappeared.

Yue bing molds.   This mold has been used for generations, repaired and kept ready for its yearly use.  But is now on the scrap heap – no longer used, and the intangible heritage  lost.  “Who wants that old thing?” I hear.

China’s rush to modernisation and development is leaving many people lost in its wake.  With education and employment policies, social welfare reforms and a greater focus on welfare programs, these people may be cared for.  But the loss of the traditional skills, the disappearance of what makes China Chinese cannot ever be replaced.  The Government is spending vast amounts of money on ‘culture’ but not on preserving the real culture of China.

Posted by: Lotus Light | January 19, 2012

Street food = real food!

Chinese people will tell you they have the greatest food in the world (without having actually tasted anything other than McDonalds or KFC for ‘foreign’ food!).  There are treatise and tomes written about the 8 different food styles (Cantonese (Guangdong), Sichuan, Hunan, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Hunan, Fujian and Anhui) and the differences between north and south, east and west.  Of course, hometown cooking is seen as the best, and people will tell you they can’t eat food from different provinces, it’s just too awful.  🙂   I don’t agree that Chinese food is THE best in the world, (I love lots of different food from different places..) but there are times when it is really, really good.

The really BEST Chinese food is street food.  That is where the great cooks ply their trade.  There is nothing better than wandering around the streets snacking on different foods, different flavours and textures.  (Maybe pollution really is the best spice!)

Umm… fried jiaozi.  Very common food, often boiled rather than fried, and often also in soups.  Made of thin dough, stuffed with a variety of meat, veges or beans.

Noodle pots

Meat, pepper slices, noodles in soup. Eaten with chopsticks and the soup drunk straight from the bowl.  Great on cold days.  🙂

BBQ - kaorou

Favourite evening food in summer.  Nothing better than sitting on the footpath with a group of mates and a pile of these Xinjiang-spiced meat skewers and nang (naan) bread in front of you. Washed down with some beer of course.

Mutton leg

Strictly for the very hungry!  Good winter warmers.  hard to eat with chopsticks, so hands are OK.

Egg kebabs

One of my lunchtime or morning tea favourites.  Quail eggs cooked ‘on the stick’  in a hot griddle, brushed with spicy brown sauce.

Un-potato stew

A big heart-warming stew made from a flour jelly, veges, meat (sometimes) and spice.

Tofu kebabs

For the vegetarians.. firm tofu barbeque’d over the flames, brushed with spices.  Ummm…

Xi'an Burger

Leaving one  of the best for close to last.  Xi’an burgers are flat bread roll, quickly fried and filled with deep fried vegetables, meat, tofu, eggs – what ever you select from the table.  They are brushed over with a spicy gravy and eaten hot and yummy.  Fantastic food after a night clubbing. Sit on the kindy chairs on the footpath, watch the world go by, or the sky lighten and enjoy…

Dessert!!   Shibing – Persimmion cakes, stuffed with your choice of nuts, dried fruits, bean paste etc.

Dousha - sweet bean cakes

Another dessert – a bit dry and crumbly, but fills that ‘sweet’ gap.

Date and pear drink

Hot, sweet and yummy – just right after a chilly morning wandering the streets.

 

Street food cannot be beaten, even in the fanciest restaurants!  And of course, it’s way cheaper.

Posted by: Lotus Light | December 29, 2011

Work

An ordinary walk down any street in China can be exciting.  Even after nearly 8 years here I ALWAYS carry a camera – there is always something different to photograph.  Today – fixing something in the drains…

Uh...oh - trouble

Bring out the POWER

OK, now what?

You want me to go down there????

Exploring the streets is fun. 🙂

Posted by: Lotus Light | September 7, 2011

The back streets

Please Daddy!

I love having visitors come to visit me.  I stop my normal routines and take them exploring some of my favourite places.  And of course, there is no place better to go than the back streets of Xi’an.

We spent the day playing in the pet market area, where no tourists go (they don’t know it exists!!) and so can see life as it is lived.  The pet market is a combination of souk, animal market, flea market and ‘ghost’ market – where stolen goods are sold.  This is where we can find the street dentists and dermatologists, the traditional medicine sellers and pirated DVDs with the unsteady hand held cameras and audience laughter.  Bits and pieces of traditionas are kept alive and well in the back streets.

Pretty cages

The back streets tell us about life when no-one is looking, when no-one is trying to create a ‘good’ look or conformity or make a personal political statement.  The back streets are reality.  They show us what is happening and important to people on a daily basis.

Not welcome

The other bits of life that we rarely think about are also on the back streets.  The less pretty stuff.   The low prices of the goods remind that not everyone can afford the nice stuff in the big shops 2 or 3 streets over.  That there are thieves and beggars and the down and out.  That health and comfort don’t extend to all.

Yesterday

The back streets give clues about policy.  The old enclaves are being destroyed and the familes who have lived in those areas for generations are being moved out to new ‘modern’, ‘safe’ buildings.  Social structures are destroyed in the process, those who may band together to disagree are being separated, those who want to maintain a traditional lifestyle are being moved away from the networks that supported it.

The back streets tell many stories if we only look and listen.

Posted by: Lotus Light | July 16, 2011

Musical moments

Er hu player

Chinese people LOVE music.  Karaoke is so popular that on almost every street there are a couple of karoake places with rooms for one person to sing along to rooms large enough for a decent sized party. Unlike Australia, where we sing in a bar, karaoke here is a private pastime that friends do together. If students are locked out of their dorms, they head to the karaoke bars because they can continue the fun and then fall asleep on the sofas.

It is common to hear people singing quietly to themselves as they go about their work.  The gate guards while away time singing as we pass by. MP3 players are permamently glued to ears for many young people.  Early morning and late evening the gardens around me are filled with people practicing their musical instruments or singing. This focus on music is also seen on TV with so many channels dedicated to talent shows.

A walk near the main city wall gates at night will see many groups of local people, singing, playing and enjoying tehmeelves.  Some are singing revolutionary songs, others enjoy the traditional local opera.  My farmer painter friends are members of a  local village opera group and frequently when I visit they gather the group together for a jam session.  Zhou Gege  is self-taught, not only on the er hu but also on the yangqin.  Spending an afternoon listening to the music, watching the dancers, sometimes having a go on the instruments and eating hearty village food is a is great way of relaxing and learning about ‘real’ China.

All across China a cultural renaissance is taking place. During the revolution, much of the traditional music was replaced with revolutionary music, inspiring the people to take up arms and support the revolution.  Today there is a revival of this for the 90th anniversary of the Communist Party.  Red Song competitions are being held across China – although talking to my friends, this ‘revival’ is not inspiring the patriotism and fervour for the Party as was hoped, and many of them laugh at the irony of extolling revolution while now being afraid to make even minor criticisms of the party in public. As well, The Central Government is now encouraging and supporting the expansion of the arts and new theatres, art galleries and art precincts are springing up. Xi’an is no exception. Not only are new theatres being built, but historical theatres are being renovated and given a new lease of life.

The People’s Theatre in Main North St, Xi’an (陕西人民剧院, 东大街) is one theatre that has benefitted from this policy. Established in 1954 this ‘grand old dame’ has been given a thorough facelift and is now North-West China’s most versatile theatre with the largest stage. The Y40,000,000 cost of the renovations can be seen in the bas relief wall decorations, the new comfortable seating, the lighting and technology available to stage anything from full-scale operas to rock concerts. The exterior has retained its heritage look, but the inside is a totally different look.

The Shaanxi Philharmonic ( 陕西省乐团) is currently presenting an audio-visual Oscar Movie Classics Concert with show tunes from Gone with the Wind, Love Story and Titanic, among others. Accompanying the famous pieces are scenes from the movies, a couple of which bring back nostalgic memories of a youthful romantic evenings at the movies.  The tears from Love Story, the sheer romance of Gone With The Wind….   Ah, those were the days!   The Orchestra motto ‘The heart may be limited, but music is unlimited’ reflects their hopes for the future..

The same evening as I attended the Shaanxi Phil, I also went to a local bar to see my favourite guitar player – Ali!  Ali is a dynamic player. Born in Xinjiang he sees himself as the ‘old man of rock’ in Xi’an, having been here playing and encouraging young musos for the last 10 years.  Ali plays, organises rock concerts and works with young bands to start them on the path to fame and fortune. He composes and arranges as well as plays and sings.  And for stage presence and audience control – there is no-one better.  He can have an entire audience banging, singing and waving in time just by waving his arms at them.

Music seems to be very important in China and the vast majority of Chinese people sing well.  I often wonder if it is because of having to learn to listen to tones to learn to speak.  It seems to me that musicians learn Chinese more quickly than those of us who are tone deaf and have been frequently advised NOT to give up the day job!!

What ever the reason – I am happy to be surrounded by music!!

Ali

Bass guitarist - XiaoHe

Ali and XiaoHe

Posted by: Lotus Light | July 5, 2011

A Traffic High!

Bus stop...

 

I was reading the other day about people who do exciting things like free-falling from a plane to fulfil their need for adrenalin.   Adrenalin junkies – come to China!  There is no need for the expensive equipment, lessons and hire of aeroplanes. China is the easiest, cheapest place to get your fill of that heady feeling, that heart stopping rush of excitement that makes life worth living.  How can we do this?  It is so easy – just cross any road in China!

Roads in China are not for the weak-kneed.  When I first arrived, I would stand beside the road, waiting for other people to come along, so that I could cross in a group.  I would position myself as far as possible away from the traffic, reasoning I would be a little protected.  When we reached the centre line, I would slip to the other side of the group.

I am now past that stage and will boldly cross the road by myself.  The trick is to cross one lane at a time.  Walk confidently across the first lane, stand calmly on the white line between lanes, tucking the derriere in as tightly as possible, hoping that the driver has taken into account that foreign feet are longer than Chinese ones, and miss those precious toes of yours.  Repeat the process.

In my plan to gain a driving license here, I had a friend translate the road rules for me, and you will be stunned to know that they are almost exactly the same as the ones at home.  However, the application of the rules is nowhere near similar!  Pedestrian crossings are NOT safe places for pedestrians, but often targets for vehicles.  I wonder how many points running over a foreigner gains the drivers in the great ‘pedestrian elimination competition’? Red lights are pretty, and create beauty for the journey.

The lane markings are merely decorative here; I am sure they were developed as an unemployment alleviation program.  Cars, buses, trucks will happily slip across the double centre lines, in the face of on-coming traffic, just to zoom a few places ahead in the line-up.  The lanes magically widen to allow them to slip through, usually unscathed.

Staying within the lanes - two way road, drivers!

The first tool that any driver learns to use is the horn.  And there is a wonderful language in horn use – a symphony of symbolism.  Horns can advise cars 500 meters away that you will be coming past them sometime soon, they warn cars turning that you are not going to wait, or to tell cars crossing the road that you will be coming through anyway. There are gentle taps to hurry the car ahead of you along, a strident beep to tell the slow car in the fast lane NOT to change lanes because you are going to pass on the inside; and the masterpiece of horn music – the traffic jam.  Drivers orchestrate their horn blowing as a way of passing time, of creating rhythm and comradeship in the face of frustration.

Then there is my favourite horn use – the one big vehicles use for the 3-wheel push-bike taxis.  This is done with finesse.  First, the bus drives to within 2 meters of the hapless taxi and even more helpless passengers, trapped in the back.  Then, the driver switches from his polite city horn to the earsplitting fog horn and blows a loooooong blast.  The whole taxi shudders with the strength of it.  The passengers hunch their shoulders, covering their ears in a vain attempt to protect themselves from the industrial strength decibels.  This has the capacity to partially deafen the passenger for a week – I know from sad experience.

So, if you feel that your life is lacking excitement – come to China and play in the traffic!

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