Day 237: Compensation

Bicyclist blocks path of taxi after minor accident; she is waiting for compensation

Bicyclist blocks path of taxi after minor accident; she is waiting for compensation

Compensation on the spot is a Chinese tradition that applies to a myriad of circumstances, none more common than a traffic accident. Just this morning I read a post where a taxi driver hit a scooter, knocking the rider to the ground and injuring his leg. A crowd quickly surrounded the scene. The taxi driver thrust 200 RMB (about $32 USD) at the injured rider and attempted to flee the scene, but the crowd refused to allow him to leave, arguing that the compensation wasn’t sufficient to pay for a hospital examination and an x-ray. During the argument the scooter driver took the 200 RMB and rode off.

Day 233: Be Calm and Pedal On

Woman secures her load while waiting for red light to change.

Woman secures her load while waiting for red light to change.

What caught my eye was not so much the woman securing her load while traffic waited for the red light to change, but rather that traffic waited for the red light to change! This street corner, Pudian Road and Pucheng Road, just south of our compound, is notorious for traffic congestion; bikes, scooters, taxis, trucks and the occasional Bentley are mashing together in a chaotic ballet. She was the calm before the storm.

Day Ninety-Nine: Mahjong

A mahjong game attracts some oberservers.

A mahjong game attracts some observers.

I borrowed a bicycle from the hotel and took a meandering 20 km ride around central Beijing, yesterday, despite an AQI of 250, in the “Very Unhealthy” range. The bad air isn’t really noticeable at street level, however there was quite a bit of pollen and petals from the Spring flowering trees swirling around and I did catch an occasional bug in my teeth. There was also a lot of construction & destruction taking places, small scale projects in many of the hutong neighborhoods I roamed, that added blowing dust and sand to the mix. The air quality aside, it was a glorious day to be about and about, sunny and unseasonably warm with temperatures reaching the mid 80’s (30 C). My original plan upon departing the hotel was to walk the 4 km to the Bell and Drum Towers, north of the Forbidden City, but when I exited the backside of the hotel I noticed a row of matching bicycles; the doorman informed me that they are available for guests, so I checked one out–complete with helmet and lock– and rode north. Much of the day was spent avoiding the main streets and commercial lanes of Beijing in general, focusing on exploring the side alleys of the hutongs. I did make it to the two ancient, MIng structures and they are impressive, but I didn’t bother entering, choosing instead to lock my bike and wander to surrounding hutongs by foot, where I discovered this cheerful group of resident playing a spirited game of mahjong.

Day Seventy-seven: Fishing

Fisherman, using a spear, stalks his prey.

Fisherman using a spear hunts his prey.

Shanghai’s warm spell is in its fourth day and temperatures climbed into the mid-70’s bringing out flowers and fishermen. An afternoon walk down some previously untraveled streets brought me to Tangqiao Park, a 40,000 square meter green space with a 13,000 square meter lake. The lake is connected to Zhangjiabang Creek, a tributary of the Huangpu River and is popular with local fisherman. The most common form of fishing is with a 18′ long pole and a bobber, but I saw half a dozen people stringing nets across the creek. The man in the picture was the only person I saw using a spear to fish; in 20 minutes of observation he tossed his spear a few times without piercing anything. After shooting a few pictures I hurried home, got my fly rod and gear and rode my bike back to the park. I worked my way around the lake with a dry fly before switching to a bead head nymph and fishing the creek. I didn’t land any fish, but casting a fly in Shanghai on a warm, sunny (polluted–AQI 194) day was reward enough.