Saturday, February 2, 2008

Oh China.

So I've learned that this horrible weather I've been speaking of is not just me exaggerating; it's being called the "Chinese Katrina"- the English paper Shanghai Daily ( has pictures of thousands of people on the platform on the Guangzhou station; as trains and planes are being delayed and cancelled. The Prime Minister even flew from Beijing to apologize to the stranded people at the station; ironically he was delayed because he had to fly around some of the bad weather (

Of course, this is the week before Chinese New Year, which is like the US Thanksgiving and EVERYONE goes home to be with their family. Seriously, what are the odds? The snow alert was raised to "orange," which is the second highest level; Apo isn't going home until the 4th (maybe). Probably the craziest thing about this all- the amount of snow (10-15 cm) is probably enough to call for a two hour delay or one day off of school back in York. But since it does not snow often, they're not used to it- today at Nanjing Lu I saw a worker shoveling snow, using what looked like a skateboard, minus the wheels, attached to a stick. Snowmen are popping up everywhere.

Which leads me to my bigger realization today: I am incredibly lucky to live in the States. I claim to dislike it; Americans are ignorant and bullies and the government is run by morons. But after talking with Kelly today, I've realized that (CHEESY WARNING:) freedom is really actually something not to be taken for granted.

The snow had damaged some construction work at Nanjing Lu; it had become too heavy for the bamboo structure to hold it and it collapsed- a minor little roof, actually. But the police taped it off and put like 20 guards in front of it; naturally a crowd gathered and someone took a picture. Instantly, three policemen were on this Caucasian; then they made him go through the pictures on his camera one by one. I assume they made him delete the ones they didn't appreciate being taken.

Seriously though, it just looked like he took a picture of some snow. There was a mini snowman right in front too; I mean he could have been taking a picture of that. I did; in fact, I took the picture right in front of the tape, with like five officers in front of me- how they couldn't have noticed me, I have no idea, yet I didn't even get a dirty look. Did they really not notice or was it because I look Chinese? I'll never know.

Another thing- Kelly and I were discussing cultural differences over our lunch of Shanghai cuisine and she told me that here, there is a law stating how old one can be to get married: Men, 21; Women, 20. I mean they're reasonable ages, but the fact that it's a law seems unfair to me; isn't it a personal choice? It's the same with the one child policy; how can the government dictate what you can do with your body and your life? I was told that recently the law has been changed; if you are an only child and your spouse is as well; you may have two children- this is because the law is 28 years old; and those who first grew up under it are now getting married and having children. Yet, Kelly said many are choosing not to because they are used to being 'spoiled' as only children and are scared of not being able to properly raise two children. Or something like that- sometimes our talks get lost in translation.

She also told me that last year, or maybe the year before, a couple at a college campus were caught kissing, and they were expelled.

And the whole 'free speech' thing- the government censors everything. Obviously there was controversy over when Google went along with it a few years ago; but I didn't think it'd be a big deal until I got here. I mean, Wikipedia is blocked! Wikipedia!! How am I supposed to do any research?!?! (I'm kidding. Kind of.)

This one's kind of trivial, but Kelly also told me when we passed police officers on the highway that they were checking plates. Apparently, Shanghai has so many cars that during rush hour it is illegal for cars from other cities to come through; however some people have other city plates because it is cheaper to buy. Plates, she said, are about 50,000 yuan. I don't know how much cars cost, but she said hers goes for 100,000 yuan when new. Can you imagine buying a $20,000 Honda or Toyota and paying $10,000 just for the license plate?

So although I do enjoy being here, and China is becoming a world power and all that, I still think I prefer to live in the States. Maybe I could move to Europe, but the dollar is just becoming too weak; I'd have to be poor for a while I think before being able to live comfortably in the EU. And here, the exchange rate is now (barely) 7.2 Yuan to 1 dollar. In 2002, it was around 8.5; summer of 2006, when I was here last, it was about 8.2. I don't even know how to end this post, I'm just so disgusted with economics and politics right now.

Seriously though., check out the pictures. It's ridiculous.

OH OH important note though: we also went to the Shanghai Ocean Aquarium this morning...and I SAW PENGUINS REAL LIVE PENGUINS THEY WAVED AT MEEEEE and it made my life. The end.

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