Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The Big City

Fun in Fuzhou

On the weekend, I head off to Fuzhou city, which is about a two hour commute from Lanqi Island. Fuzhou is not anything like Vancouver; after all I am in China. Of course, the general differences, between rural and urban areas, are the same. The traffic is heavy, people walk the streets at all-hours of the day, and there are more things to do than in the country. There is one department store, which has eight floors in it; you can purchase anything from groceries to clothing. Prices in the department store are much more expensive, than the local businesses. The local businesses have lower prices because many of them don’t declare their total revenue to the government. If you want a receipt, you have to ask for it. Oh yes and for all you WAL-Mart fans, there is a Wal-Mart here. I did my shopping in a market place and did not realize, until way after, that I was in a Wal Mart (no obnoxious greeters at the door to give it away). I have yet to discover how Wal Mart managed to weasel its way into China. Once you get past the general things, you will find yourself in a city full of Chinese culture, there are temples and not churches, the local stores are still garages and the residential areas are under-developed Most of the apartments are not the same as ours back home. What we consider to be a poor area, would be thought of as a middle class, over here in China People empty out their water into the streets, so you have to be careful about where you step. I have finally managed to be courageous enough to cross the street by myself. I must say that I have been hesitant because I have had three close calls between manic bus drivers and my person. I am thankful that I have only felt the wind of the busy on my face and not the bus itself! As crazy as the driving is here, I have seen only one accident, several near hits, but no fatal mishaps. There seems to be a mutual understanding between pedestrians, motorists and drivers as to know how to share the roads. Crossing the roads here reminds me of the computer game, Frogger. I still haven’t cracked the code yet. I survive by shadowing someone that knows what they are doing, so I don’t wind up as road toad.

As for city entertainment, the choice things to do are: disco dancing, karaoke, drinking beer in a pub, or going to a tea bar. I have yet to go to a club, because my host fears for my safety. I have been to one pub, which has attempted to create an American atmosphere. The walls are decorated with pictures of Jimmi Hendrix, the Beatles, and the Marlborough man. It is my opinion that Chinese beer tastes just the same as Canadian draft; of course I am biased, after a month, the taste of beer in my mouth, felt too good. Right now, my idea of a good Saturday night is drinking beer and treating myself to a spicy lamb skewer.

It is very unsafe for woman to go anywhere at night, without being in the company of men. One of the dangers, believe it or not, is the cab drivers. Mrs. Zhiaow and I need to take two taxis in order to get home, on Sunday nights. The city cabs are restricted to carry passengers only within city boundaries this means we have to take a black cab to reach the ferry port. These black cab drivers are desperate for money. They will push you, grab you and corner you into their cab. If you’re not careful, they will actually physically push you into their cab, drive you to God knows where and force you to pay the cab fare. This is an interesting way to create entrepreneurial opportunities for oneself. Miss. Zhiaow knows how to handle them; I think they are afraid of me. I have shouted at them to stay away, if one comes near me, I have no qualms about kicking them. Unfortunately, one of teachers was not so lucky. They forced her onto a bus, drove her to her destination and made her pay. There are other dangers, my host fears that I may encounter during my travels. This has imposed a great barrier upon my freedom as there is a limit as to what I can and can’t do here. As I am a guest, in this country, I have to respect my host’s wishes and suck up what I don’t like.


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