Sunday, October 1, 2017

Time Hopping

One thing my recent trip to China (Beijing, Shanghai, Chi'an, and Hangzhou) has proven is that I am no longer the long distance traveller of my earlier days. Twenty hours crammed into a coach seat and a twelve + hour time shift each way has given me such a bad case of jet-lag (or is it jet-lead?) that random naps are the only rest one gets.

Needless to say the time spent there was wonderful; great food, wonderful people, and traffic management systems that are beyond belief:  Imagine count-down timers on read and green lights! Six way directional arrows.  Hundreds of electric and manual bikes darting among trucks buses, and cars with hair-thin margins of clearance.  Despite excellent public transportation, the crowded motorways seemed to move at walking speeds.  Impressive masses of hundreds of colorful shared bikes clustered at every subway entrance or bus stop. Of course all this is necessary because of the sheer density of the population.

Shanghai at night
Shanghai, Beijing, Hangzhou, and Chi' an were impressively modern and, at times, I felt I was on the set of Blade Runner.  The architecture was more impressive that Chicago's and I don't doubt that the buildings' architects as well known. On the outskirts of all three cities were tall monoliths of hundreds of apartment buildings marching to the horizon with nary an individual house in sight.  As many new towers were being build as those already in place.  You had to get beyond the big cities to find any classic  architecture.

"Protect your iPhone," we were warned of theft, but  as we went among the crowds we noticed that everyone was using or carrying their own (and mostly more up to date versions than mine) wireless phones. The younger crowd appear to be as addicted to their digital devices as our own.  In fact, more often than not, our pictures were taken with phones than old fashioned cameras.  This occurred mostly at tourist spots where we no doubt appeared strange to people from China's interior region who were unfamiliar with westerners. The more cosmopolitan crowd ignored us.

Everywhere the Chinese were wearing Levi's, Nikes, and tees with English slogans/trademarks. We are truly living in a world culture when you can't tell the natives from the tourists. Which is on point since the Chinese tourist industry appears to be booming.  I imagine their floating tourist population is on par with our own as they visit significant sites from their own thousand years history.

One word about the food.  Three meals a day with at least twelve delicious dishes each and never a repeat (except for the rice, beer and Sprite/Cola) and every dish a delight. Chicken and pork predominated and only once did I find a beef selection. Not a one resembled American "Chinese food."

There were so many story ideas at every turn and the inability to sleep has given me ample time to mentally compose at least two short stories and one more complex piece. Now all I need to do is find the energy to write them.

When I recover, that is.


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