Winnie and I took the train to Hangzhou on Saturday morning to visit friends. Shortly after we boarded a little dispute broke out across the aisle from us. There was a Swiss couple that was arguing with a guy from Hong Kong about who was supposed to be sitting there. The Hong Kong guy had a ticket for one of the seats that the Swiss couple was sitting in. His wife was with him so they wanted to sit together. The Swiss couple didn’t want to move because they were on holiday in China and didn’t speak Chinese. They said they were told to sit there so they sat there and therefore felt they didn’t have to move.
This provoked chorus of “why do foreigners always think they are superior’ from the Hong Kong man (this was in Chinese, he had been speaking to the Swiss couple in English). Soon other people in the train car joined in and a crowd formed. Eventually the train staff showed up. But they didn’t really solve the situation. The train conductor didn’t speak English and he just smiled at the Swiss couple giving them the impression that they were right while telling the Hong Kong guy in Chinese that he was right. Eventually the Swiss couple gave up and went and stood in the hallway between two cars. The woman was crying by this time and one guy kept reporting if she had stopped or not everytime he went to fill his tea jug.
I understand the desire to sit together but the Chinese guy was right. He had paid for the ticket and had every right to sit there. The Swiss couple should have moved. It’s unfortunate that they didn’t get seats together but Chinese trains have bilingual announcements so it’s hard to miss your stop and in this case it was an express train and only stopped at Hangzhou, they could only get off at the right stop. What annoyed me the most about this situation though is that the Swiss couple lived up to a negative stereotype of foreigners that some Chinese hold. If there is one thing I want to fix while living here it’s those stereotypes. And even though I had nothing to do with the situation I always feel that there is a set back for me in reaching that goal when something like this happens.
Oh well, I guess I just have to work harder.
I promised myself I would blog tonight, but my heart is just not in it. It has been a bit of a stressful day at work — even if as Winnie says most of it was probably self-induced — and I really want to chill out tonight. We’re off to Hangzhou on Saturday and I am taking the full opportunity to relax!
Write more next week.
When your office manager asks you if you put on weight, you need to consider going to the gym more than one a week. That’s my plan for tomorrow.
The 17th CPC Congress started today in Beijing and instead of writing about who is going to be the successor to Hu Jintao — lots of other people are already doing that. Instead I’d like to draw your attention to two interesting blog posts about the crackdown on foreigners who overstay their visas in the run-up to the Congress.
Jonathan Ansfield outlines the sometimes colorful stories of people who overstay their visas whereas Josh Gartner outlines his problems of harassment by his local PSB in Beijing — even though he’s here legally.
I don’t know if I agree with the methods the PSBs used. But I’ve — so far — never encountered a problem with my local PSB in Shanghai. I haven’t overstayed my visa and my office helps me to renew my visa since I am here with a work permit, so I’ve never missed renewing either.
I hope I stay problem free.
I read a great post on EastSouthWestNorth today:
A few days ago, I saw the most awesome television ad ever on Linfen TV.
Three women met in the middle of the street and the following conversation took place.
A (to B): “Didn’t you get a vaginal infection?”
B: “I was cured at Hospital XX.”
B (to C): “Didn’t you get a uterine pelvic infection?”
C: “I was cured at Hospital XX.”
C (to A): “Didn’t you get a chlamydial infection?
A: “I was cured at Hospital XX.”
A,B,C shout in unision: “We all got our sexually transmitted diseases cured at Hospital XX!””
And here’s a great piece about the beauty pageant industry in China from the same site.
Your second umbrella of the day snaps in half in the middle of a tropical storm 10 minutes from home.
I’m not sure if this means Tropical Storm Krosa will just be strong or it wants to kick my ass but I am listening loud and clear –stay indoors tonight.
From Time’s China Blog:
“Perhaps the most profound insight into harmony I’ve heard recently came a few weeks ago during a party in the Beijing courtyard where I live. My neighbor Feng, a postal worker with a lazy eye and unerring sense of humor, had consumed an inharmonious amount of baijiu, the official firebrew of China. Late into the evening he stood up and announced: “The Beijing government is always talking about building a harmonious society, but we already have a harmonious society right here in this courtyard!” The assembled guests roared their approval. A few minutes later Feng puked in the corner, and our celebration of harmony was over for the night.”