An Army of High Speed Somnambulists

The other day I posted Driving in Vietnam, an article with photos about riding between towns in Vietnam that included a five minute GoPro video of a drive around Saigon on the back of a scooter-for-hire.

Entirely different, but related: In this article, Veronique Greenwood, who lives on a university campus in Beijing, explains that

“In New York, the key to road safety is predictability. Make eye contact with drivers, so they can see your intentions. Use hand signals when you want to turn. Avoid sudden, erratic movements—if drivers can see where you’re going, they’ll be less likely to hit you. The first time I use a hand signal in China, angling my arm leftward to show a truck driver I am about to turn in front of him, he looks to see what I’m pointing at, while accelerating. Every time I make eye contact, other cyclists and drivers barrel right on through, instead of letting me pass in front of them. Eventually I adapt to a new reality, learn the new rules, and I discover that they are as simple in China as in the United States. Actually, there’s only one rule: Ignore everyone.””

It’s a great read. It’s psychology. It’s a cultural thing. It’s practical driving in China advice. It’s about living in China. Do read.

Archival Chinese Video on Twitter

Suggestion for a fun Twitter follow:

Tong Bingxue 仝冰雪
@tongbingxue

Here’s how he describes himself: Collector & Historian of earlier image of China. Author of History of Photo Studios in China. All tweeted are my own collection unless stated otherwise.

Here is an example:

Chinese World Dominance, in Photos

There is an outstanding photo feature about the commercial monster China is building itself into with its OBOR “Belt and Road Initiativehere, at The New Yorker’s website just now. This photo is a screen grab from the article. You get a few free articles a month without being a subscriber, so you can check it out.

Lost in Translation

Published at the beginning of this year in the U.S., The Cyclist Who Went Out in the Cold: Adventures Riding the Iron Curtain, by the British writer Tim Moore, tells the story of his bicycle trip from the top of Europe, 400 kilometers above the Arctic Circle in Kirkines, Norway, all the way down to the Black Sea, in Varna, Bulgaria. En route he passes through a slice of Russia, skirting the Baltic Sea between the Finnish and Estonian borders, and finds himself outside St. Petersburg, ordering dinner in the town of Гостилицы, aka Gostilitsy.

I hope Mr. Moore won’t mind my excerpting this episode at some length. This passage by itself is worth the price of the book:

“The ordering process was memorably conducted by Tatiana, who dictated the Russian menu into a translation app on her phone. With the halting, toneless authority of a digitised train announcer, this device then offered me suggestions it was very difficult to listen to politely.

‘Meat Beach Gardens.’

‘Children’s Alexander.’

‘Tea Pork with JW Boils.’

‘The Sultan Episode.’

Tatiana’s enthusiasm for this technology did not ease the ordeal; battling my features into respectability, I looked up at her open, expectant face and falteringly ordered support beef with titles of mushroom. She smiled and scribbled, then spoke once more into her phone.

‘What is not a drink?’ it mused in response.

Pivo,’ I said.

With a flustered look she shook her head and a free hand, then held the phone to my mouth promptingly.

Pivo,’I told it.

The device said something in Russian that seemed to disappoint her. She pressed the screen a number of times then showed me its suggestions, translated back into English:

‘You knew. Pencil case. Peugeot.’

We tried again.

‘Beer,’ I said.

‘Bill,’ offered the phone. Then: ‘Pace of the warp.’

‘Heineken!’ I blurted, launching into a strident roll-call of ales that began with Champions League-grade ubiquities and very very sharply downwards, ‘Amstel, Budweiser … Skol … Carling Black La-’

‘Ah, piva.’

•••••

Reminds me of an experience in Tibet, recounted in Common Sense and Whiskey. At the end of another bone-jarring day-long ride we pulled up at the town of Lhaze, at a no-name hotel that wouldn’t have power until 8:00 that night.

“Not much use being there unable to see, so we found a restaurant across the street where there was power, and talked with some men from Guangdong on their way to China’s Everest base camp for holiday.

We asked for cold beer and one of the guys tried to translate. The waitress looked puzzled, was gone too long, then came back smiling triumphantly, buckling under a big metal tub of raw meat. Thought we asked for ‘cold beef.'”

 

Quotes:

So this clears that up:

Do not imagine that the term “South China Sea” ever implied Chinese ownership. It is a Western construction that dates to about 1900. Previously, European maps referred to it as the China Sea, and before that as part of the Indian Sea. When the Portuguese arrived there in the early sixteenth century they called it the Cham Sea, after the maritime kingdom of coastal Vietnam. Other names at various times include Luzon Sea and (by early Arab traders) the Clove Sea. To China it has long been the South Sea and to Vietnamese the East Sea. The Philippines now refers to it as the West Philippine Sea.

From Philip Bowring, Indonesia and China: The Sea Between in the New York Review of Books online.