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May 24, 2002

Walking on the Street

Today's topic is "Walking on the Street" which in Shanghai means "running for your life while being accosted by thousands of pedestrians, bicycles, mopeds, cars, taxis, busses, and trucks."

Let's say you are hungry and decide to go down to the corner convenience store to grab a bite. In the United States, I typically accomplished this by hopping in my car, driving it to the store, going to the frozen pizza rack, paying for it at the cashier, getting back in my car, driving it home, and nuking the pizza. Total time: 15 minutes maybe. Total number of people I came in contact with: one.

Here's how it works in Shanghai: Walk out of my building and into a throng of people rivalling the New Year's crowds at Times Square in New York, get bumped into by nearly all of them, swim my way through this crowd until I get to an intersection, all the while making sure to avoid being spit upon, then look in all six directions (left, right, behind, in front, up, and down) before crossing the street, continue to look in all six directions while crossing the street, take note of vehicles frequently perpendicular to the intended flow of traffic on said street, occasionally stick my hand out to signal to cars that they should not hit me, and finally get across the street and into another throng of people. Swim through the throng and into the convenience store. Note that there is a convenience store every 2 minutes walking in any direction. Go to frozen pizza rack, pay for it at the cashier (shelling about a third of what I would in the States), walk back through the throng and the street, and back home, and nuke it. Total time: 15 minutes maybe. Total number of people I came in contact with: 1562.

Probably the hardest thing to overcome from my standpoint was not to get offended when someone bumps into you on the street. See, in the States, when someone bumps into you it's a "sorry-able offense" meaning that the other person should say sorry if he's got any class at all. Here, it just happens so darn often that you'd be saying sorry constantly so people just presumably forego this pleasantry in the name of efficiency. At first I thought it was because people here were impolite, but I no longer think that way.

The other thing is the spitting. The Chinese Government has actually decreed that people in Beijing should make an effort to stop spitting publically in preparation for the 2008 Olympic Games. They should extend that to the entire country, because people spit like they breathe. And with the sheer numbers of people, you can imagine how hard it is to avoid stepping through pools of loogies as you walk down the street...

Seriously, though, if you're in the right mindset, the throngs can be quite uplifting. I mean, think of all the opportunities to meet new people... the problem just comes when all you seek is a little quiet solitude... because there are no such places in the city.

May 23, 2002

I am an utter wasteland

So the question was weather I should spend all the time writing up somewhat meaningful entries, or making the blog look pretty. I've decided to write for now, and we'll worry about how bad this thing looks later.

I went rock climbing yesterday, for the first time in probably two or three years. I knew that I hadn't been doing anything to keep myself remotely in shape, but this manifested itself all too plainly at the rock climbing gym. For one thing, my form was all off, but even that aside, I was just plain weak. I had my brother bring my rollerblades and my volleyball from the States, and I brought my Frisbee with me last time, but I must admit that I haven't used any of the above at all.

The problem is half that I've been so darn busy and lazy at the same time, and half that the weather's been so crummy. Not to mention the lamentable fact that open fields are a pretty rare thing in the heart of the city. I'm pretty determined to find this Ultimate Frisbee club that I keep hearing about, though. They meet on Saturday mornings over on the other side of the river, but I need to find out where exactly.

Aside from that, things have been the same hectic pace since the beginning of the month. The guy that left the company mysteriously at the beginning of the month turned up working for a competitor, and I caught the bastard red-handed trying to hijack my sales team a couple of days ago. The lack of professionalism on his part when he left without telling anyone and just disappeared was appalling enough, but I'm a pretty forgiving and compassionate person... I gave him the benefit of the doubt then. Not now. You fuck with my team, you fuck with me. Unfortunately for him, he's made it personal now. This guy is going down.

Argh. Like I don't have enough fun to deal with without this nonsense. On the interesting but irrelevant side, I seem to be able to read cnn.com without a proxy now... whether this is some configuration mistake by the Big Brother Firewall Central Committee or a change in policy I don't know. Most likely, they realized that ever since the AOL/Time Warner merger, cnn.com is now run by idiots and can be regarded along the same lines as, say, the Onion.

May 20, 2002


At the behest of the exalted satori, I submit to you, the reader, this humble beginning of a blog. The idea behind this thing is to provide a little window into the experiences of one person living abroad over a number of months. I hope to explore with you the differences in daily life, people, work, school, weather, traffic patterns, idiosyncracies, and other nonsuch as an American living in Shanghai, China.

Perhaps a little background on the author is in order, to give you some perspective on my perspective. I am ethnically Chinese; Taiwanese to be more specific, but I grew up, was educated, and have worked for the past four years in the United States. I am in my mid-twenties, but unlike many people my age living abroad, this is not first time I've been out of my country. I've been fortunate to have had the chance to travel extensively around the world, so what I hope will come out of this blog effort is a perspective that is uniquely global. This is, however, the first time that I've actually lived abroad for more than a month, so things should be interesting.

So without further ado (since satori is no doubt falling asleep waiting for me to finish this)...