Monday, June 25, 2012

Football and nightmares

Well, I'm relieved. Not only do i not need to wake up at 2.45am any more to watch any more football, I won't have to watch England be humiliated by the Germans. Thank you Italy! We went out with a small level of dignity. That would not have happened against Germany who would have cleaned us up. Anyway, now we can get all excited about the British Olympic Football Team. Maybe that team knows how to pass?

In other news, well there's not much other news really. Everything else in the newspapers has been in the newspaper for months-if not years-and therefore can hardly be called news. Just the repeat of previous events: economic crises, uprisings, and the failure to do anything to stem the dire state of the environment. On the latter, maybe there is some similarities with the England team. Everyone turns up, tries to keep expectations low, says the right thing, stays out of trouble (an improvement on the 90s...), works hard but is unable to work as a team or do anything exciting or ambitious. Oh well, we can wait another 10 years until Rio + 30 or something and the World will likely be in an even worse state than now and still we'll be doing little about it.

After two weeks of splendid blue skies in Beijing and pollution levels better than most European cities, the smog descended and survived the rainstorms to put a dampener on the three-day weekend we just had. Never mind, we still went swimming in a river and climbed the great wall. We also managed to survive my worst nightmare, though only just.

My worse nightmare is when there are two lanes of traffic: one going one way and one going the other. There is a blockage somewhere around the corner so there is a queue. Only one lane can go through at one time leaving one lane empty for a period as the cars wait their turn to get through. Because everyone here that drives is both selfish and impatient they don't want to wait in the queue so decide to overtake and try to push in to the queue further up before the oncoming traffic gets going again. And as one car decides to do this, so all the other cars behind decide too. And of course they cannot all squeeze into the tiny gap as the cars inch forward, and then they get stuck, and when the cars in the other lane have their turn to advance they cannot because their lane is blocked. And now everyone is screwed. The queue of queue dodgers gets longer and longer as more and more cars decide they want to jump the queue or just can't see around the corner to see what is happening and so follow the idiot in front. Three years ago, after a trip to the Great Wall such a nightmare occurred leaving us sitting on the grass beside the car for 4 solid hours. Eventually, that time, the cars drove off into the fields to create space for the other cars to squeeze by. On Saturday, fortunately, we managed to stop the line of queue jumpers from getting too long. So most of them could eventually squeeze into the queue to clear the way for the opposite lane to get through.

I hope that makes sense. It's a real nightmare. Trust me. And it quite nicely sums up one of the big issues in China which is, I joke, sometimes the polar opposite to the UK. In the UK, everyone is polite to everyone without even knowing them, but it takes an age to become someone's close and trusted friend. In China, everyone is rude to everyone without knowing them, but quite quickly become close and trusted friends. What this means is that once you know someone here, they are fantastic, friendly and kind. But until then they most likely will treat you like an enemy, competition, or a problem. This may sound harsh, but in public spaces, it is very much true. Of course it has it's benefits of course. After one lunch with someone, they'll be very nice and eager to help you. You just need to have that one lunch. And you can't really do that with everyone in China.

A well-known correspondent for the Guardian recently left China to report from South America. He wrote an excellent leaving piece (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jun/18/china-birth-of-superpower?CMP=twt_gu) that i highly recommend reading to get a good summary of where China is at now. It's somewhat depressing, but there is hope. There are more and more heroes in China. I'm sure there will be more in the future too. Things are changing - hopefully, they'll get better more than they get worse. But, no time for such depressing conversations. I've just finished a marathon few days of watching Downton Abbey. And the Christmas Special could cheer anyone up. What a closing scene. Cheesiness personified yet done so well it was not cheesy. Great stuff!

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