Why China is Weird, Part 4

I saw a sign while walking around the Botanical Gardens in Hong Kong which read: “Beware of Pond.”

Now, don’t get me wrong, I acknowledge the fact that ponds are indeed a public menace and should be accorded all due caution. But really– this particular water feature was perhaps six feet in diameter, a breathtaking 4-6 inches in depth, and featured a rather prominent fountain. It would have been hard to miss. (I would like to note now that this “Beware of Pond” sign does not appear anywhere about the large and fearsome koi pond at the very center of the Gardens. Madness!) The only explanation I can surmise is that this particular pond has a mischievous or even malevolent streak, and that it snares unsuspecting passers-by with its seemingly harmless mien only to… dampen their ankles? Oh, the horror…

Ahem. Forgive my flight of fancy. It’s been a while since I’ve done a “Why China is Weird” post and the return has made me somewhat whimsical. No offense is meant to anyone who has, in fact, suffered trauma at the hands–er, something– of a pernicious puddle.

That same day I meandered homeward on the MTR, book in hand and casually reading. The woman sitting across from me had caught my attention when she boarded the train, as she was carrying a bag full of whole fish–something silver and largish– and what appeared to be melted ice. Evidently, I thought, she had been carrying the bag of fish around for quite a ways.

Imagine my surprise, then, when the train hit an incline and all of a sudden the fish began flopping violently inside the plastic bag; it occured to me then that the bag had not ever contained ice, it was just enough water to cover the fish and allow them to breathe. When the train started pulling uphill, it displaced the water just enough to worry one of the poor creatures, which panicked and made its anxiety known in an impressive acrobatic display. The woman carrying the bag adjusted it and the fish relaxed once more, but now I could see its mouth working against the side of the plastic. That was going to be a seriously fresh meal.

Hardly an hour later, I had passed through customs and was safely back on the Shenzhen side. Book still in hand, I waited patiently for my bus to arrive; the stop I was at was in full sun and a bit sweltering, so the other two people who were waiting had taken shelter in the shade behind the big plastic timetables. (If I hadn’t mentioned this already, Chinese people are notoriously afraid of a suntan.) At some point, a woman emerged from behind the bus stop to hail a taxi cab; she didn’t have long to wait, as one pulled up with alacrity (as they do in Shenzhen). The woman spoke for a moment with the driver, then headed back behind the shelter. Intrigued, I watched as she emerged a moment later with two birdcages containing live birds in her hands, which she then proceeded to place into the trunk of the taxi cab. It was a little bit of a production, actually, because one of the cages was rather tall and wouldn’t fit, so the cabbie got out and started gesticulating and they finally came to the conclusion that they would just leave the trunk open. So off they drove, two birdcages in the open trunk of a cab down on of the busy arterial roads of Shenzhen.

One last tidbit for you, and then I must get on with my Saturday. Whilst I was walking to the grocery store with my neighbor one night, she suddenly clasped at my arm and made a strange sound like a strangled laugh. I looked up to see what was the matter, and there, walking past us, was a man who was wearing a waist-length jacket– and absolutely nothing else. Just lettin’ it all hang out. Stephanie and I just sort of looked on in horror as he passed, and then burst into giggles after rounding the corner. When we told this story to someone who had returned from the previous year, he said, “Oh yeah, that happens sometimes… Public indecency isn’t really enforced at all.” I mean, naked children in public are one thing. Pantsless men? only in China…

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Posted on November 20, 2010, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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