Dear Diary: It has been a long time since my last entry, like since never. Oh well, how about an initial update as a middle aged man adopting a son in China. Solid. I will divide the trip into thirds, with the first third being the Beijing experience. Dude, there are a bunch of people in Beijing. Like 23 million. I met many of them, mainly because they wondered if I was blind in both eyes due to the blueness of same.
I will start with some general observations. First, let's talk road rage, since most Americans would experience it here in short order. It seems to me that Americans drive linearly. That is, this is my straight line to my destination and you should not overly impair my goal. Not so in China, and I have never seen anything like it. Well, I have never seen anything like it except when I saw something just like it in the cumulative month I spent in Russia.
These people do not drive linearly. It is more like amoeba driving, as driving patterns take the shape of what is needed at the moment. (I mentioned this observation to my wife, and she suggested that I use the term "organic" (living and breathing) as the descriptor for Chinese driving; while organic certainly works, I fear it is currently being used too much and is about to go the way of "the bomb" and "my peeps" -- thus, I will stick with my "amoeba" analogy.)
For instance, picture the road more traveled as being striped with two lanes. Now, this lane striping is a suggestion that is expected to be ignored. Inevitably, there will be three lanes of cars across the two striped lanes, even if there is only enough cubic space for, say, two and a half lanes. Now, how is this possible is your logical query. I'm not sure how it is possible, but it happens mile after mile after kilometer. It's like a car morphs into smaller, greener versions of itself. That will end the "green" discussion of China, since I can think of no other examples.
And then there is the use of horns. In the land of apple pie, the horn is used reactively, and often is a meant to disparage one's mother or ancestry. This is not true of the Asian version of the horn, which is used proactively. Like, there is a half lane on your left and I am now giving you fair warning that I will be sucking in my gut and passing you over there. Think of a skier on a slope shouting "left" as a warning when passing a slower skier.
The funny thing is, I have come to believe that this unstructured, no real rules apply, approach is preferable to the American buttoned down, I'm going to kill you if you I can reach my hand into your open window, approach. No one gets mad here, because there is no real expectation of what is proper to be mad about. Couple this with the fact that the competition for road space is not just other cars - it is three wheelers disguised as cars, bikes, scooters, pedestrians, mules, . . . This brings me full circle on my theory of why driving patterns are so different here. In the land of baseball, we pretty much built our highway system with cars in mind; that is, our roads "grew up" with competition only against other motorized carriages. Not so in Asia, as roads made do for all types of travel, with cars being the late comer to all that other stuff I just mentioned; that is, it is very organic and thus the bomb for my new found peeps . . .
OK, I know that this is supposed to be my "first" observation of Beijing, but Dear Diary I am running out of steam. Perhaps I will make some observations about The Forbidden City, The Temple of Heaven, and The Great Wall in my next entry, which may come when I am a much older middle aged man . . .