Sunday, February 21, 2010

How many people CAN fit on the subway? Maybe just one more

Sometimes I think that I have become so accustomed to the culture here that it doesn't bother me anymore. Then I remember that it's more because I don't put myself in the most frustrating cultural situations on a regular basis. For me, these mostly involve public transportation, shopping in markets, and tourist locations.

Take yesterday, for example. I rode the subway down to a place called Wang Fu Jing pedestrian street. I was fine for the first 16 stops. Then I had to take one stop over on line 1 - the original subway line, where you are within suicidal distance and potential of the oncoming train. There was a good number of people waiting when I arrived, so much so that I was unable to board the first train that came. Probably about 10 other people shouldn't have tried to board either, but they did manage to squish their bodies in enough for the doors to close. It was at that point I realized it would have been faster to just walk the last stop above ground. But if I had, I would have missed the sensation of not holding onto anything on the subway, yet being completely immovable due to the crush of people. If you haven't experienced this, you really should put in on your bucket list.

After a glorious time at the foreign bookstore, I headed to an indoor market which caters to foreigners, to find party supplies for Ethan's 10th birthday. There I was reminded how much I want to host a "market vendors convention" during which I instruct them that foreigners do not appreciate it when, a) the vendors scream, "Hello lady, I remember you!!", "Hello hat!!", "C'mon lady wanna buy some t-shirt?" or variations thereof, or b) the vendors physically pull them into a stall, or c) the vendors hovering and pointing out every item they are selling. It's a fine line for me between politely acknowledging their antics and simply getting what I need and getting out.

It may sound like I had what we call a "China day" when the culture just rubs you the wrong way, but I actually didn't. I think because I don't often put myself in this kind of situation I can be somewhat amused by it, and that's what I was yesterday. Just one of those "shake your head" kind of times when you're thankful you don't have to experience that all the time every day.

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