I don't like whining, and I especially hate travellers who can't seem to find anything good about a place (you know those types, the I only eat at fast food joints because I know their names back home, why is everything around here dirty, why does everyone not speak english types). I won't be spending much time focusing on the negatives, but I figure a bit of exasperation at how things work here in the land of tea and rice won't be taken against me (and hopefully no blog blocking on the part of the local censors).
I told several friends before I left that my biggest concern was having a clean toilet, a western toilet preferably, and to my eternal gratitude the gods have been good so far. My office has clean, sanitized options, both Western and squat. And the hotel I am staying at for the first few days has a western toilet.
The hotel itself, well, it could be several notches better. It seriously needs a carpet upgrade, are those cigarette burns everywhere? And I forgot how much I would be surrounded by smokers here, they smoke in the bus (right in front of the No Smoking sign - it's in chinese, no way for them to plead ignorance), they smoke in the elevator, they smoke in their rooms. I'm girding myself to bitchslap the first student who tries to light up in class. Well, castigate, in really nice but stern tones. I am practicing my steely gaze as I write this.
The city's taxi system is unusually strict. Taxis can only go in a particular direction and if you ask them to go the other way, they tell you to cross the road and grab a cab on the other side. I asked the ladies here at work and they explained that it would cost me more if I tried to make the cabbies turn around, so at least that's one lesson learned so far. I'm still trying to make heads or tails of the bus system, the buses look rather swiffy, none of the old russian buses that I used to push my way in (because the old chinese ladies would push their way in, sticking their elbows into your ribs to grab leverage) way back in the early 90's. Chinese cabbies are crazy, they definitely push their boundaries when it comes to weaving in and out of traffic. Back in Xiamen, we saw a particularly intense accident, a bus crashed into the center aisle metal rail. Glass everywhere, the bumper and front grill looked beyond repair. I think I had better increase my death and dismemberment insurance when I go home in a few months time.
Wenzhou boomed due to the industrial growth of the last 8 years; its vicinity to Shanghai made it very popular for companies that build small parts for practically everything. Fashion, cars, machinery, office equipment. Somewhere in the flatlands towards the west, there was a factory built just to make some tiny hinge by the thousands. Migrant workers flooded in, and the city grew exponentially. The folks who grew rich off the proletariats backs now drive around in beamers, porsches, and range rovers galore. A walk around town yesterday was quite eye opening. There's money in these hills, although the economic downturn is hitting everyone hard. Exports are going to be double digit percentage points lower than last year, so those cars may not be on the road for much longer.
The main shopping drag, Five Horses Street and the offshoot alley, First Bridge, is full of the least essential items on the face of the earth. Ok, maybe the diva editor in the Devil Wore Prada would disagree with me, but do the citizens of this city really need store after store of deconstructed sack like dresses, jeans, handbags, shoes with ruffles on the heel, and undergarments?
I am thrilled that I can spend a few kuai for dvds; without access to english news, I know that knowing a few stores that will feed my need for mindless entertainment will be a godsend. I already got a copy of Doubt and SATC (extended cut). I should have quite the collection in a few months.
Oh and speaking of eating in fast food joints, I must hang my head in shame that I caved in and ate at the KFC by the train station. But if there's any reason to gloat, the KFC here serves fantastic egg tarts! Macau, schmacau, I don't need to fly/train/bus my down south for flaky, eggy, creamy tarts! Yahoo!