Thursday, July 01, 2010

The Music of the Traffic in the City

As I mentioned earlier, I spent the better part of a Sunday walking around in downtown Nanjing, China during a recent business trip to Asia. Here are a few pictures and recollections from that excursion.

Nanjing Higher Normal College For Pre-School Education? And you thought there was a lot of pressure to get your kids into the right schools in the United States. I'd hate to think of the shame for parents if kids had to attend the Lower Weird College instead.

One thing that really stood out as I wandered the streets of Nanjing was how many locals--especially the younger set--were sporting shirts with English phrases on them or wearing brand name apparel. Some of these phrases must have lost something in translation since they didn't make a lot of sense, but the proliferation of Western--some European, but mostly American--style and brands was in evidence everywhere. It's interesting to see how much Chinese and American cultures are now tied together by commerce (at least in the urban areas). Of course, this isn't always such a positive development...

Compared with the chaos of Manila, the streets of Nanjing were relatively tranquil. It was still chaotic in some ways, but it was a much more organized type of chaos. Most of places where I trod were fairly walkable and the various neighborhoods all felt safe, as long as you kept a sharp eye out for hordes of bikes and scooters streaking by. It really didn't that long to adapt to the rhythm and rules of all manners of traffic present and soon I was scanning and moving quickly when needed without even having to think about it. A lot of the streets in Nanjing have trees which not only helps beautify the environment, but also provides much needed shade, especially in the heat of the midday.

But even with the trees after some time, I realized that my walking was leaving me exposed to the sun and vulnerable since I had no sunscreen with me. So I stopped by the gargantuan Wal-mart shopping complex in search of SPF safety. After a bit of fruitless wandering and frustrating attempts to communicate with store clerks whose English vocabulary rivaled my knowledge of Chinese, I finally found what I was looking. And, as an added bonus, it would not only protect my skin from the sun, but "whiten" it as well. Just what this German-Irish guy from Minnesota needed.

One of my favorite sections of the city is the 1912 District near the Presidential Palace (more on that in a future post). The buildings in the area--which house a numbers of restaurants, bars, and night clubs--aren't actually from that period in time, but have been designed to replicate the look.

Among the avenues and alleys of the District, the signs of World Cup fever were everywhere.

In Manila, there was very little interest in the World Cup. Especially when compared to the frenzy over Game Seven of the NBA Finals. There were far more outward signs that the Chinese were drinking the World Cup Kool Aid, but it wasn't clear if they really cared about the matches or cared because they've been told that they should care.

By the time I reached the 1912 District, I had been walking around in the heat and humidity of downtown Nanjing for over two hours. I was parched and badly in need of a restorative. So when I came across a watering hole advertising Erdinger wheat beer, it was very much like finding an oasis in a desert.

Once inside, I discovered that there would be no worries as to whether they would have enough Erdinger to satisfy my needs.

At close to seven US dollars a glass, the Erdinger wasn't cheap, but it was well worth every yuan. After quenching my thirst and giving my legs a much-needed break, I resumed my journey. As enticing as the prospect of having tacos in Nanjing was, I elected to hold off on vittles until later.

Red is considered a lucky color in China, so it's not surprising that a sign advertising a lottery would employ it.

Welfare Lottery? That's probably the most truthful way to describe it that I've seen yet.