An OCS classmate from Army days, recently returned from visiting in-laws in China, posted the following report on the class forum. He was impressed with the country, despite some incongruities, from a lack of refrigeration to rather primitive table manners:
“Vibrant economy with mega construction projects on-going. Infrastructure is impressive, with multiple lane expressways all over the place, but traffic is horrible. Chinese drivers are very aggressive, but don’t show anger when cut off. Turn signals are used occasionally, and horns frequently. If you want to pull into an adjoining lane, you simply pull over, even if there is a car beside you, Whoever gains a 1 inch advantage will win. It’s amazing that there aren’t more accidents. People driving BMW’s, Mercedes and Audis are the most aggressive, because they feel entitled.”
(We see this in Austin, as well, drivers of luxury cars are by far the most obnoxious. Especially the refugees from the terrible Democrat economy who still have their California plates.)
“Spent most of our time in Hangzhou, a city of over 8 million, which is a three hour express bus ride southwest of Shanghai….Got a real taste for how the Chinese urban middle class lives. Everybody has a cell phone, i-pad or equivalent, and cable TV. Appliances, however, are years behind us….In China, families are very important, and grandparents spend as much time raising children as the parents do. We did laundry, and went to market. Meals were interesting. Hot water for tea is available all day.
“Everybody has a bowl of rice at every meal. All the food is served in bowls in the center of the table, and everybody helps themselves, using chop sticks to take bite size pieces. Nobody has a plate. When you get a bone, you suck the meat off and spit the bone on the table. At the end of the meal, the table is wiped off. We were not allowed to help in the cooking or cleanup so as not to offend our hosts.
“Played tourist up in Beijing for four and a half days. Took a bullet train up there, cruising at 306 km/hr. Very impressive. Stayed at a hostel in a neat little hutong (neighborhood) about four blocks from Tienanmen Square. Toured Tienanmen, the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace, and the Great Wall. Incredible history, and all kept immaculate. At the hostel, where the help all spoke passable English, we enjoyed some western cooking and cold Tsingdao, a good Chinese beer.
(We can get Tsingdao at the local grocery, saving us a 13-hour airline flight. ;-) Bullet trains wouldn’t work here unless they had dedicated tracks which would require new right-of-way and many lawsuits. It’s easier in China’s dictatorship.)
“Very few cold drinks in China due to a lack of refrigeration and ice. The train and subways are all modern, clean and efficient. Signs and announcements are in both Mandarin and English.”
Later he added this to me in an email: “China is a huge, complex country. I wrote about the small piece of it that I saw. I was impressed, but then, today [back home], I read about the four human rights attorneys who were imprisoned and tortured, probably while I was there.”
Complex for sure, as most countries are. The English language signs remind me of Israel, where all the road signs are in Hebrew, Arabic and English. It’s not a compliment to Americans or Brits; English is the international language now. Lucky for Mr. B.’s generation. It was French when I was his age. I never could pronounce French well enough to be understood.