Of course I'm liberal, I believe in liberty.

Friday, March 04, 2005

So Much Flying For So Short A Trip

I'm back.

You know, I want to be sympathetic to all the extra security we currently have in our airports, but I really don't think it helps all that much. None of this security would have stopped 9/11. 9/11 didn't occur because some people smuggled box cutters on board, it occurred because some people were willing violently and dramatically take innocent human life as a show of power; pens, keys or even bare hands would have worked just as well. But 9/11 can't happen again because the paradigm shifted, no longer do passengers or crew believe the proper response to a hijacking is to stay quiet, do what they say and wait for the plane to land in Cuba. This kind of hijacking can't happen in a post 9/11 world. In fact, the paradigm shifted so quickly it couldn't even happen in a post 10:00am 9/11 world -- it was the rapid paradigm shift that prevented that fourth plane from becoming the fourth bomb.

Think about it, would you let a hijacker get away with anything today? Of course not. You know your life is probably forfeit, anyway. That fourth plane wasn't filled with former green berets, it was filled with ordinary people who probably saved the White House (or where ever that plane was headed.)

Anyway, here are a few smaller observations from China:
  • When I first entered the Shanghai airport I heard the music of bamboo flutes -- playing music from Evita.

  • In America, Chinese food is often served family style, where each person spoons what he or she wants onto his or her plate. In China it is the same, except they use their chopsticks to grab and eat the food directly.

  • The cans still use pull tops where the tops come completely off.

  • There are peasants living in makeshift shacks in the same neighborhoods as nice, middle class apartments. I'm guessing those kids don't go to school, but I could be wrong.

  • At the hotel there was an envelope to leave money to help poor women in the country.

  • The subway typically costs two or three RBMs per trip; that's less than 50 cents.

  • No one drives. Only one person at the office drove a car and she worked in Canada for years. Car tax is huge to discourage purchase, plus you must win a lottery or something like that, I believe.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Random Observations From China

  • Wear a sweater. The office building isn't heated, only individual rooms in use are heated. Each room has it's own thermostat, usually turned down when now one is in the room. Meeting rooms start out cold. I experienced the same thing at a restaurant we ate at today; we had our own room but the heater wasn't turned on until we sat down.

  • Likewise, my hotel room requires the room key (card) to turn on the lights. Assuming I take the key with me, it's impossible for me to leave the lights on.

  • After cleaning, the sink and bathtub drains are closed. This is true both at the hotel and at the office. I have no idea why as the drain doesn't work too well that way.

  • Meat and fish have bones in them. I've yet to have a meal that didn't require removing something inedible from my mouth before swallowing. Everyone else has to as well, so it isn't just me. Here it is normal.

  • They really do use chopsticks. I've been told that Chinese students in America don't use chopsticks even to eat Chinese food, so shouldn't bother either. (I've always liked using chopsticks when eating Asian food.) The implication was Chinese don't really use chopsticks anymore, it's just an old tradition. Not true. I'm in perhaps the most modern portion of China (PuDong, Shanghai) and I have yet to see a fork anywhere. They don't use them. (Well, maybe in a American or European restaurant, but I've been avoiding those.)

  • There are no napkins to be found. I'll try the pidgin soup, the fungus (not a mushroom), the lotus root, the they-don't-know-how-to- translate-it-but-I'm-fairly-sure-it-is-plant-matter-of-some-kind, the skinny fish on a stick where you actually eat the bones (but I drew a line at the head), and other new foods, but I really miss my napkins. Sometimes it's easier to try new things than to give up what you are already used to.

  • The subway trains have flatscreen TV's showing commercials in them. Outside the elevator at the office is a flatscreen TV showing commercials. The subway station shows commercials. Huge electric billboards dominate the view across the river, advertising various corporations. I'm in a communist country but it looks like capitalism gone wild or a scene from Brazil.

  • When talking to people about what's happening here it is all "the government is planning this", "the local government is doing that". In the world of us and them, the government is "them". It's like the government is just another corporation.

  • At the museum today someone mentioned Chinese history is all about Dynasties, each intended to last forever. None of them lasted. The lesson seemed obvious... They know.

  • Please, learn a lesson from Disney; always leave the gift shop open for longer than whatever it is the shop is associated with.

  • While eating across from a school, I asked if it was public or private. I was told it was a school for workers at some factory, but he thought others could attend, only it would be more expensive. I asked more about education and learned, very much to my surprise, that there is no public education here. I'm still thinking I must of misunderstood, but I'm fairly certain I'm right; everyone pays for their children education one way or another.

  • The people I've met have completely embraced Modernity and are looking forward to better and brighter days and they are willing to work hard to get it. China will be a major source of competition in the coming years and decades.

  • I already knew this, but it's good to be reminded. All of us humans are basically the same. Yes, we have differences, but they are nothing, nothing compared to the similarities. There is only the human race, the rest is just details.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Cultural Differences

When someone gets you a glass of water and the dispenser gives both hot and cold, in China they choose hot. A couple times today someone got me a cup of hot water; no tea bags are any else like that, just hot water to drink.

Twice today I absolutely stunned people simply by being able to use chopsticks. My thought was "I'm American, of course I can use chopsticks!" And eat Indian food, and French, and sushi, and Ethiopian, and everything else. In America we don't just have one culture, we have everyone's! Usually the best of everyone's culture!

In China, taxi drivers swerve in and out of traffic like mad men, constantly honking on their horns. Oh, wait, that's just like everyplace else in the world...

Monday, February 28, 2005

Yes, I Can Blog From China

It's a world of laughter
A world of tears
It's a world of hope
And a world of fears
There's so much that we share
That it's time we're aware
It's a small world after all.

(From memory, did I get that right?)