The man on the sidewalk.
We are on the fast train to Beijing! It goes over 300km per hour and will get us to our destination in less then two hours. Pretty amazing, especially when it only costs $33 American.
The trip began after an… interesting day. I had a story class scheduled for me with Shirley, where I was expected to read one story to 3-5 year olds for an hour and a half! We had exhausted the tail in thirty minutes. Good thing I have the power of improvisation. I was also asked to be a judge for a singing contest. This ended up being less stressful then I expected.
Chandler had recommended our hostel to us. We took a cab and managed to bargain the guy down to 100RMB (which we found out later was still a huge rip off, but we felt accomplished at the time). We got half off beer coupons with our room keys and as soon as we dumped our bags in our room we came back down to cash them in (well Nate cashed in, I gave him my ticket as well and bought a cocktail).
We played darts using our own made up rules and minimal math. “could I sit in on a round?” some white guy asked us. The place was full of foreigners, though somehow we’d still managed to score two Chinese room mates. We explained our crazy rules and he joined in. Seemed likeable enough.
When we finished our drinks we headed back up to our room to grab some outdoor gear. We were on a mission to find Mcdonalds french fries. It was somewhere around this time that we met Erin. She was from Chicago (as is Katrina) and has convinced me that all Chicogoins are chatty. I liked her immediately. A good way into a conversation I noticed Nate bouncing up and down on the sidelines. He probably thought he’d left this sort of thing behind with Katrina in Jinan.
It was Erin that put Beijing prices into perspective for us for the first time. She told us our trip from the train should have been a 14RMB ride. She also shouted that the hotel’s trips were grossly expensive when I stopped to study the posters.
We started off wandering down random roads in search of Mcdonalds, but when we started to get cold we stopped to ask for directions. Once oriented we set off again.
We passed by a man laying on the sidewalk, his bike on it’s side not far away. We weren’t sure if he’d fallen or just passed out. I’ve been struggling to deal with this aspect of life in China. People aren’t seen as individuals. It’s as if China is a giant ant hive, it’s workers bringing it life. When they are no longer valuable they are simply brushed out of the way. Hundreds, thousands, in some cases even millions of Chinese are killed by natural disasters or accidents, and this is just seen as normal.
The man on the sidewalk has spent his entire life trying to be part of the crowd. Trying to think, breath, and move in the exact same way as everyone around him. He isn’t an unique, valuable, and irreplaceable asset to the community but just another one of an already overpopulated species.
I picked up an english language magazine about China the front of the hotel. It had a small article talking about an ever growing problem. Girls were getting stopped at the airport for not looking anything like their passport photos. Instead (thanks to plastic surgery) they had the face of a famous Chinese girl who was supposed to be the epitome of beauty.
The man on the sidewalk would get no passing help, no phone call would be made to the police. He would simply have to lay there until the alcohol had worked it’s way of of his system enough for him to get up and stumble home.