Sleepy Drivers

Statistics put out by the Chinese government this week show that the roads in China are the deadliest in the world.  Here’s how the AP reports on this phenomenon:

Once again, China‘s roads are the deadliest in the
world, a government news agency said Friday. For the 11th consecutive year,
China has topped the list in number of traffic deaths – 5.1 for every 10,000
motor vehicles. The Xinhua News Agency report says
government statistics show nearly 82,000 road deaths in China last year. Xinhua
said the world average was two deaths per 10,000 vehicles. The most current U.S.
government statistics online reported about 1.7 fatalities per 10,000 registered
vehicles in 2006.

I think that one of the contributors to this problem in Beijing is sleepy taxi drivers.  I came home tonight from across town, and for the last few miles my driver was having the hardest time staying awake.  He kept slowing down and wandering from lane to lane.  At one point he was breathing so heavily, I thought he might actually be snoring. 

Graciously I made it home safely.  But suggested to the driver that he might need to pull over somewhere for a short nap! 

For Men Only

Now this is one of those very very funny signs.  It is posted above the urinals in the mens room of a public toilet at the Temple of Heaven.

AND NO I DID NOT TAKE THE PHOTO!!!

I took some visitors  there a few weeks back, and one of the guys came out of the toilet howling about the funny sign! I sent him back in to take a photo!

Actually the Chinese is more literally translated as “one small step closer is one big step closer to being civilized”.

Wish You Happy Baseball Competition

Some friends and I had the chance to be a part of baseball history yesterday, as we were on hand to witness the first ever Major League Baseball (MLB) game played in the People’s Republic of China.  The Dodgers played the Padres and the score ended in a 3-3 tie (no extra innings played). It was a gorgeous spring day with lots of sunshine and blue skies, thanks to the slightly chilly wind blowing down from Mongolia.  It was a good thing we got there early because there was a very very long line to get through the security check.  Of course, they were trying to prevent the obvious objects from being smuggled into the venue (weapons, bombs, etc.), but there were many other prohibitions as well, and they were looking in every bag. No water bottles allowed; no tea thermoses; no food (they overlooked my peanut butter sandwich, however, but that’s because I don’t think they knew what it was); and no signs or banners that were not first approved by the police.  Truth be told, especially this week, I think that they security forces were much more nervous about unapproved banners and signs than they were about any weapons.

As we entered the bleachers, the ticket taker smiled at us and said zhu nimen bangsai yukuai (lit. wish you baseball competition happy).  Now there’s a phrase I’d never heard before.  When we got to our seats (right field line) we discovered that we were right smack dab in the middle of several hundred 10 year old boys, who were obviously participants in some sort of baseball camp.  They had MLB gear on, and were being herded around by coaches.  Actually, they were sitting in our seats.  I told the coach with them that they were in our seats, and he smiled and herded them all a few rows down.  Hmm.  That was strange.  This little ritual happened 3 or 4 times during the game.  He’d get them all seated, then some others would come along and claim the seats.  I finally asked the coach what was going on, and he said that there tickets were scattered all over, and he was trying to keep the kids together.  Anyway, we were surrounded by hundreds of little boys with blow-up sticks and they smacked them together as loud as they could.  Clearly they were having a good time (and we were going deaf).

The game got started after the playing of both national anthems and the US ambassador threw out the first pitch.  Yes, the baseball game was fun and interesting, but we were actually more entertained by the little boys.  As soon as the game started, their coaches started bringing out the food and the feeding frenzy began:  potato chips, hot dogs, more potato chips, soda, more chips, and finally Snickers.  Most of the news reports about the game talked about the concessions running out of food—we know why—it was all being bought up to feed these little boys!   By the 6th inning, when they were done eating, they all filed out and headed off to the booths set up outside the stadium where they could practice throwing and batting.

There were lots of laowai (foreigners) in attendance–pretty much all the Americans in town–but the locals still had us outnumbered.  They seemed to enjoy the experience, although at times I think they found the American fans more entertaining than the game.  And probably the most entertaining thing for them was when all the laowai suddenly stood up and started singing in ” Take me out to the ballgame.”  We got some very puzzled looks!

By the time the game was over, we were pretty cold and parched from facing the north wind, and decided that we needed a pepperoni pizza to warm up!  For a journalist’s account of the game, go here.  Below are some photos.

Ceremony and Pop-tarts

One of the features that my blog-hosting service provides is statistical information on "page views" to my site.  I can see how many times in the course  of a day my website is viewed.  Beyond that, however, it also tells me if someone visits my site via a link from another site, and even tells me which linked site the visitor is coming from.  It’s kind of creepy, if you think about it.  If a visitor links from another site directly to a particular post, I can see that as well.  So out of curiosity I check each day to see how many people have viewed my site and try to figure out how they’re getting here to see if I can see any patterns.  Most  come from links on friends’ blogs, but a lot seem to come get to my site as a result of doing a Google search.  Interestingly, I’ve noticed something very odd—the two most common Google searches that send people to my site are "Don’t Stand on Ceremony" and "Pop-tart Burns." Yes, I have written two posts on those subjects, and they can be found here and here.  Searching for the ceremony one is understandable–it’s a common Chinese phrase so someone researching Chinese culture would likely encounter it and want to learn more.  But pop-tart burns?  I guess I have found some small comfort in the fact that I wasn’t the only person on the planet stupid enough to burn myself with a pop-tart.  Who knew that it was so common?? 

So, if you’re looking for information on the Chinese love of ceremony, and dealing with pop-tart burns, folks, this is the place to be!   

Why We Don’t Drink Tap Water

On Wednesday afternoon a friend and I went for a long walk around Kunming Lake, in the Summer Palace.  It was a gorgeous, unusually warm spring day–maybe 60 degrees (definitely not normal for this time of year).  As we were walking we came upon some guys swimming….in the shadow of this sign!

World’s Largest Airport Terminal

Yesterday marked the opening of the world’s largest airport terminal, the new Terminal 3 at the Beijing Capital Airport.  The timing, of course, has something to do with that upcoming event in August of this year.  Go here and here for an interesting article and video reports on the new terminal.  I can hardly wait to see it.