“What’s it like on the streets of China, Lee?”
That’s a good question, voice in my head (which sounds a bit like David Mitchell), a question that can be summed up in one word, but no, I won’t be doing that.
No, instead, I will offer a narrative of a typical example of walking from A to B around the streets of mainland China. Just know this, I risk having my Chinese visa revoked and my life beat from me, as the Chinese government do not like China being portrayed in a bad (true) light.
So, if next week’s post is absent, I’ve been extradited to China and put to death (ahem… China still has capital punishment… ahem).
In all seriousness, today’s post is my most exposing and controversial of all, so if you’re one of those people who whisper instead of talking because you don’t like mean voices, and you consider a ‘PG’ film to be too erotic, then today my friends, is too much for you. For those of you who now have a preconceived notion of what today will be, but don’t care regardless, don’t whine afterwards, your curiosity is to blame!
I’ll start this short chapter off by explaining that I am not an individual that seeks out confrontation nor problems. In fact, I’m the person you see walking face first into a lamppost because they were looking at the ground or the kind of person who feels sorry for a murderer when they start crying (hey, we all make mistakes).
Unfortunately, it just so happens that an overwhelming number of factors have caused me, and will cause you, a headache if you live in China as a foreigner. These frictions will stack up so high, that they will collapse around you like a tofu Chinese building, and you’ll just need to, ‘tell-all’.
Just to point out, today’s post is riddled with links, so if you see one, click it, it’ll help illustrate what I’m telling you. Again, I say that with a warning, as some of the later links will show you ‘distasteful’ things, not violent things, just… ‘distasteful’ things. Not viewing these links is the same as looking at half a painting, you just don’t get the full picture *buh dum tss*… I’ll show myself out.
Anyway, to demonstrate today’s entry of, ‘life on the streets of China’, we will travel together, as I take you on an adventure/tour. So, put on your imagination cape and close your eyes, as we enter a late-night adventure phone in, that’ll cost you a fortune.
“My name is Falconhoof, and I will be your guide on this quest”. (props to you if you got that)
Let us begin, Traveller.
It’s a sweaty sweltering Sunday, my day off, and I am heading to the local shopping area, primarily because the shopping areas are newer, therefore less dirty (not just my logic). The shopping areas are pleasantly well stocked with an arbitrary assortment of restaurants, outlets, and furniture stores, and not so pleasantly, occupied by masses and masses of hominids.
As you may recall from my last post, public transport is gorgeously cheap, so today I’ll be treating myself to the ever so slightly more expensive, metro. Yes, it may just be as heaving as the buses, and yes, it is slightly more expensive, but between you and me, the metro has this little corner by the door that I like to take shelter in when commuting. Keep schtum, yeah?
Taking the metro… actually, you know what, I won’t delve into the transit of commuting via metro, I’m sure by now you know how I feel about that. Instead, I’ll leave you with a link and a picture from the Chinese underground.
Yes, he’s doing what you’re thinking. (He’s excreting into a bin just in case it wasn’t obvious)
Skipping a horrendously packed commute on the metro, and it’s here that I struggle to make my way out of the underground. I wade through the people suffocating at the bottom of a pile, people who have been pushed over and trampled on as a result of impatience. Moving to the side, I take out my pack of antibacterial wipes and clean my shoes from the juice of trampled people.
I squint into the distance to allow my eyes to focus, and just ahead of me, I see daylight at the exit. I make my way up the stairs by barging past people (when in Rome) and head for sanctuary by deciding to go to IKEA, which is located just across the road.
You know, IKEA, that big fu*king labyrinth that entangles and entices you, force feeding you cheap yet sufficiently acceptable balls of counter-rolled ‘meat’ (not to mention the fudge cake… mm mmm, delightful)
Stepping carefully, I take to the main entrance, which is littered with abandoned shopping trolleys and expelled phlegm, left by uncourteous customers. I waft my hands in front of my face as I squeeze myself in-between the crowd of people standing before the entrance, as they’re all (yes, all) smoking cigarettes (which are probably less harmful than the air itself). It is if I am entering a chicken’s coop, only, these chickens are unruly, unwelcoming, and clucking ever so loudly as if I were a fox.
On entering IKEA, I take a deep breath, pause, and scratch my head in confusion as I pan my line of sight across the store. I am understandably confused because I had assumed that I walked into IKEA, the family-friendly furniture store, but no, what I am seeing, is a hotel, a two-star hotel that is overrun with yet again, unwelcome and unruly guests.
In front of me is the sofa section, and it is downright incredible, as Chinese ‘customers’ (or just bored people) are kind enough to offer me a demonstration of how relaxing the sofas are, by sprawling their bodies across the furniture and treating themselves to a ‘well-deserved’ nap… hmm.
Creeping past the sleeping sofa trolls, I enter the next level of this adventure call line, the infamous, ‘Bed Section’. Here, the Chinese customers are again, kind enough to offer me a demonstration, this time though, in the form of how a bed works, by literally getting under the duvets and going for a sleep. It’s a fu*king family day out!
Treading lightly through the makeshift hostel, or perhaps more fittingly, ‘the brothel’ (careful Lee, there’re children in the picture), I keep my lips tightly fastened, and steady my keys from jangling, like a tomb raider creeping through a hall of sleeping grumpkins.
You see, If I wake them, they will jump up and be sure to uninvitingly touch me, by putting their arms around my shoulder and forcing my face to become digitised on their phones forever!
Yes! I am not pulling your leg, your arm, or any part of your body for that matter. Some Chinese people, for reasons I cannot tell you, actually use IKEA as a place of rest.
So far, you’ve spent £6.50 on this adventure call line, I hope it’s bloody worth it!
Leaving the sofa and bed area, I head up the escalator and pass through the cots section (cribs), and I see babies having their shitty, dumpy nappies changed openly on the lovely bedspreads, over-spilling and being tossed onto the floor, or swept under cots.
I see toddlers opening up sealed boxed toys and playing with them without their parents saying a word, in fact, the parents encourage their children to do so. It’s like a zombie movie, you know, when you see the baby turn into a zombie, you feel sorry for it, but nonetheless, it’s just as gross as the adult ones.
All this poverty… I mean behaviour, has made me want to escape, so I turn to an escalator, cutting through fire exits to avoid being roped into IKEA’s mind-boggling morass. Now, apart from the constant news of people dying (view with caution) from cheap, badly made escalators collapsing in China, there’s another fear to be dreaded here.
Stepping onto the jolty automatic stairs, I try to speed up by walking down them, hoping to reduce my risk of a stupid death, ‘executed by escalator’ (which sounds like a sh*t Terminator spinoff).
Unfortunately, my attempt is blocked by inconsiderate people standing directly in the middle, on their own, and on their phones. I politely ask them to move, but they ignore me, so instead, I stand to wait, shi*ting myself, literally petrified that the escalator will collapse any minute.
Approaching the end, I notice that the people in front don’t seem to be making way as they come off the escalator. In fact, they seem to be congregating at the bottom, chatting, paying no attention that I, along with a mass of others behind me, are about to arrive at the bottom of the escalator and will need room to land.
As a result of total lack of courtesy, I then have a choice to either start running back up the escalator, or push aggressively forward, as a blockade of Chinese people stand gormlessly and cluelessly at the bottom, disregarding the hoard of people about to be churned up by the dangerous, potentially life-threatening stairs.
I may speak jokingly of this, but I have to say, experiencing it, was genuinely very terrifying.
Opting to push aggressively forward, by releasing some built-up tension by shoulder barging into people, I flee the danger zone and head for the store’s exit. Once again, I waft my hands passed the smokers who are not only outside the store but inside the store as well (the staff do nothing to stop this)
Feeling out of my depth, truly, I run, escaping the strange, parallel world, and make my way onto the cities walkway. I take this moment to collect myself, rearrange my clothes, and brush myself down with my hands, before starting along the path.
To my left, near a type of waist-high metal railing separating the road from the path, I see a boy squatting over a handkerchief, as he excretes poo openly from his bum. His grandmother, who is encouraging him, as if she had bet on a racehorse, brings the four corners of the handkerchief together, and like a small parcel, pops it in her bag until she can find a bin, or somewhere to throw it.
Public urination for children is wholeheartedly accepted in China, as the Chinese believe that a child’s urine is ‘pure and good’. Dumping, on the other hand, I cannot comment on whether they find this acceptable or not, though, as it’s such a frequent sight to behold, I can only assume that it is (even on airplanes).
As I constrict my body through the masses of people that fill the streets, trying to avoid physical contact, futile attempts are made by village idiots at pickpocketing me with litter pickers. I reach the road crossing and await the green man to guide me, and as the blind man’s beep can be heard, myself, along with hundreds of others, all take to the zebra crossing.
In China, a red light for a car doesn’t mean stop though, in fact, a red light means, ‘drive faster, and into people’. As I begin crossing, I clutch at someone’s shoulder to pull them back as a car drives into the crowd, beeping its horn and claiming the road.
In China, the cars do not stop for people, instead, the cars drive… around people. This is an incredibly dangerous behaviour that they take no responsibility for and a behaviour that is not condemned by a vast majority of Chinese. I kid you not, if you were to cross a road in China, the car will categorically not stop for you, it will drive at you, and then turn either left or right to drive around you. In fact, I am so confident of this, that I am willing to bet my sponsorship fee from ‘sitdownandshutup’ flights.
On one occasion, I was crossing safely at a zebra crossing, and a car continued driving at me without intending to stop (because he was immensely important, I’m sure) and as he passed me, he hit the side of my arm. On hearing my body being hit by his car, he performed an emergency stop, jumped out from his car, and charged towards me with his fist in the air, threatening to punch me for scratching his car.
Anyway, back to the adventure.
I cross the road, witnessing only a few casualties, and an insurance scammer, as I shelter behind others as human shields. I take a rest on the other side of the road, sitting under a tree from the searing heat, in hopes of finding peace and a moment to myself away from the claustrophobia. I close my eyes and listen to the cityscape in an attempt to reimagine myself someplace else, like London, or… London.
My ears then become filled with a vile, wretched thick stream of ‘Chinas original soundtrack’. This is a sound that can be broken down into four instruments: drums, lead guitar, backing vocals, and lead vocals.
The heartbeat drum of the track is a march of thousands upon thousands upon thousands of footsteps trampling the ground. The lead guitar is the noise of propaganda being shrieked and plucked from tin metal public speakers. The backing vocals are scoured with people vomiting, shouting and screaming. Lastly, the lead vocals belong to the sound of, “ptooie”, yes, Chinese spitting is something that is as common as you or I blinking.
A friend of mine had once warned me before I had even left for China, by saying:
“In China, when a bus pulls up next to you, move away quickly, as all the passengers spit out the window.”
The Chinese believe that phlegm is bad for you, and must be expelled from the body immediately, so don’t be surprised when the girl sat next to you on the bus, spits into a tissue, or when the old man riding in front of you, spits into the wind, hitting you in the face. I’ve had my shoes spat on, my clothes spat on and bag spat on, not through racism, no, but through the showering sh*t of spitting ‘etiquette’.
Taking a cautious half lunged breath, wishing I wore a mask, I slap my knees and stand, deciding to give the city another chance by walking around the shopping area. Trying to blend in, I keep my head down as to avoid people from noticing my western white features, but unfortunately, to no avail.
Almost every single individual I walk passed, either stares at me, points out to me or talks palpably about me by tapping their friends on the shoulder and turning back to look at me. “You can’t smack’em all“, I tell myself, a phrase I had on repeat throughout my time in China.
Feeling frustrated by this unwanted ‘attention’ or shall I say, ‘harassment’, I walk to a café to salvage this fatiguing trepidation. I identify a nearby café, by recognizing the obvious brand that the shop has copied, a most common creative flaw in China, the inability to create new things (yeah, they can’t. You’re thinking of Japan).
Before I enter the café, I pass a toilet, and stood outside is a child being hovered over a bin (trashcan) as it urinates from its genitals. The godly and worshipped urine hits a plastic bag inside the overflowing bin, and as it does, it splashes back up and onto the floor near my feet, like oil spitting from a frying pan.
Even in this moment, when a child is being draped over a dirty bin outside a vacant toilet, I am still the sight to behold, I am still the freak, as the parent looks my way and starts shouting, “look, foreigner!” whilst pointing a pissing child at me.
I shake my head and tut, like an aristocrat looking down on poverty. I feel almost sorry for their shameful behaviour, as I try to excuse it with, “no education?”. I walk into the café, where I am yet again met with stares and people whispering “foreigner” to each other. Feeling ostracized, I head to the counter and ask for a green tea, just so I can sit down in the corner and hide my stupid white face, “green tea please” I ask.
“Where you from, Russia or America?” The staff ask me, limiting my options of origin.
“Neither, can I have a green tea please”. I reply impatiently, tapping my wallet on the counter.
“Why do you coming China?” The staff now gather around, stupidly giggling as they ask me moronic questions.
“I came to China to have a green tea. Now, can I have a bloody green tea please.” I say.
“What do you wanting?”
“Forget it!”, I snap, throwing my hands to the air and leaving the counterfeit store in a huff.
Giving up, I call a taxi and cross my fingers that the driver isn’t a rapist. I wait for a short while, and before you know it, I am behind the glass, watching people knocked and bumped into by the taxi, as he mounts the curb to skip queues.
The taxi pulls up to my building, and I present the driver with my money in the form of a 100yuan bill, he glares at it with bulging eyes before snatching it from my hand. He shifts his body to his side of the car, and then after some obvious rustling, he gives back ‘my’ 100-yuan bill and says, “this is fake, give me another”.
To reveal his stupid little trick, he took my real note, swapped it with a fake, and then tried fooling me into thinking that the note I had given him was counterfeit. In his perfect deceitful world, I would have been fooled. I would have apologised, taken the fake note from him, which I would assume is mine, and then hand him another real note. This is a ‘trick’ or vague attempt that a huge number of licensed drivers will do to double their money.
I run up the stairs into my house and lock the first door, lock the second door, and then put the chain on the hook. I collapse to the floor with my back against the door and say,
“Scary, man. Scary.”