Why China is Weird, Part 3
Let’s begin this post with a bit of a preface.
The things that one sees in China which one might label “strange” are probably no more strange than things one would see anywhere else in the world. What makes the Chinese version of strange so intriguing is the sheer abundance of such bizarre sights as a police officer on a bicycle getting stuck to the back of a motorbike and, when said motorbike stops suddenly, being flung headfirst onto the sidewalk where he sits up and curses the motorbike-rider, who shrugs and drives calmly away. Regretfully, I did not witness this incident first hand so that is all the more information I can give you on the situation. But the point is, stories like this one, and ones more insane, get slung around by all the foreigners when we meet on the weekends for meals and excursions.
So here are three that caught my eye this week.
1. I’ve already discussed the somewhat eccentric nature of Chinese children and their bathroom habits, but this one sort of took the cake for me. I was wandering the aisles of Carrefour, which is a European-style grocery chain here. Lo and behold, there is a small child, standing with legs spread in the checkout line, happily peeing all over the floor. While his dad nonchalantly paid for groceries. See if I ever pick up anything off the floor anywhere in China.
2. I did not fully appreciate the meaning of the words “hot” and “muggy” until I moved to sub-tropical China. Over the last few weeks I have sweated in places I didn’t even know could sweat. Boys, cover your ears for a moment– ladies, if you have ever had the unfortunate experience of removing your bra and pouring a small pond out of your underwire, you know what I’m talking about. If you have not, you are now imagining it. My apologies.
The Chinese folks have developed a number of strategies to deal with this particular problem. (One of these days, when I get my act together, I will post photographic proof of these things I am telling you.) We’ve gotten used to such exhibits as the Chinese fan, which comes in two breeds– the delicate, modestly-sized paper-and-bamboo ladies fan with which most of you are familiar, I am sure; and what I like to call the Man-Fan, which is simply a ridiculously large version of the one that the ladies carry. This particular piece of equipment is very handy to have on crowded buses, or in crowded streets, or at crowded tourist attractions, or… Even if you are not the proud owner of a fan, Man-Fan or otherwise, you can reap the benefits of this tool. Simply sidle up to a person who is thusly equipped, stand unobtrusively to their left (to their right, if they’re a south-paw) and revel in the glorious breeze issued forth from their vigorous fanning action.
Another favorite strategy, this one particular to Chinese men, is the shirt-roll. You take the bottom edge of your shirt, and either fold it or roll it up so that it reaches no lower than your pectorals and your stomach is bare to the elements. Then you walk around or, if you’re a little more traditional, take your man fan and hunker down into a heel-squat sit. It must be pretty comfortable, because you see it everywhere.
There are many other coping strategies, but this third one is the best I’ve seen lately, and the one that truly falls into the “Why China is Weird” category. Whilst on the bus home from excursions the other night, I was gazing out the window at the passers-by. Suddenly, into my view popped a bicycle. This in and of itself is not unusual. Bicycles are an incredibly popular form of transportation around here. One of these days I will do a post purely about the insanity of the bicycle traffic; but this is not that post. No, what caught my eye was–in this order– the fact that there was a woman with a polka-dotted dress standing on the back of the bicycle (with no helmet, of course, as this is China), that she was holding onto the shoulders of the guy in front of her, and that the guy was almost completely naked. I couldn’t tell if the small scrap of cloth he was wearing was a loincloth or a pair of Tighty-Whiteys. But whatever it was, it wasn’t much. I’m willing to bet he was feeling pretty cool.
3. People sell the absolute weirdest crap in the streets. I mean, there are the normal weird food things like durian (oh the horror) and dried squid and various mystery meats on sticks, and there are the normal not really weird but slightly surprising stands selling magazines out of cardboard boxes, DVDs that are most likely pirated, and various wooden instruments. But then you get the truly strange. Like the woman who had set up shop in the middle of a park outside of Book City (glorious glorious Book City– that is also a post for another day), with a bunch of ducklings. Which she was selling. In plastic crates. Of course, when we walked by, the ducklings were out on the lawn, peeping their little hearts out, while smallish children ran among them, picking them up and putting them out in various places all over the grass. The traumatized little ducklings were trying to huddle together, making little patches of yellow fuzz all over the lawn, and every once in a while a parent would relent and some happy little kid would make off with a small duck enclosed in a little plastic crate.
Mull on that for a bit. Here I leave you, with the promise that I will return soon with yarns of Book City, bicycle traffic, and the strange and wonderful holiday known as Teacher’s Day.