Beijing: Silently Rewarding, Relentlessly Commanding

16 May 2013
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You have probably never felt as unwanted in your life as the way Beijing cab drivers make you feel. You will either rely on the same old cliché of “it is not about me, it is about them” or you will never feel confident enough to try to get on another cab in your life after the treatment Beijing cab drivers think you are worth of. I am sure they always have a valid reason to kick you out of their cab but their reasons do not feel justified to me when explained in loud Chinese. They made me miss and even appreciate Istanbul cab drivers, a feeling I was so sure of being deprived of. It is a good thing that Beijing has a good public transportation system to make up for their cab drivers` incomprehensible behavior.  I should however still warn you though – you can be traveling on a train or a metro in Beijing and can be the only non-Chinese in your wagon but a Chinese person can still pick you out of all the Chinese and ask you for an address with a map in her/his hand and keep talking to you in Chinese for another minute despite all the nonsense look in your face. I at some point started to think that I maybe look Chinese but just had no clue about it. Think of Beijing as a city where a total stranger can come up to you, pat you on your shoulder and leave, a city spitting out on the street is acceptable only if performed in an extremely loud manner, a city where the number of public toilets is higher than the number of people you can communicate with, a city where it may take up to an hour to drink a simple glass of water, a city where you do not want to put your shades on not to further limit the visibility already effected by the air pollution and finally a city, despite all of this, I truly fell in love with. I have never seen a city in my life as dynamic, as chaotic but still as traditional as Beijing.

Beijing, China
Beijing at night

Beijing is loud, quite, funky, serene, poor, rich, modern, undeveloped, dirty, green, it is everything all at the same time. It made me feel so alive. One of the songs that I ended up listening to constantly while in Beijing was the World by Danger Mouse. Its lyrics matched the dynamism that I felt in Beijing and the headline that I chose for this post is where I got it from. Check out the song here, its lyrics also remind me of one another city that I am extremely familiar with like the most of you.

Beijing, China
Spring in Beijing

China is a country in transition, you sure experience some of the common behaviours that you see in those people newly welcoming the power of money. It is however still distinct in the sense that Chinese people are very eager to catch up with what they had been missing in terms of the money related pleasures of life but, at the same time, their religion and their former habits still hold them back to some extent creating this unintended balance between the tradition and communism (should I say socialism?) habits and the outcome of the increased financial capacity. It will probably become less visible within 5-10 years due to the changing habits of the new generation but I have never seen any other city the residents of which are as capable of entertaining themselves for free as the Beijing residents are. They get entirely disconnected from the surrounding environment when playing cards with each other out on the streets. Singing and playing cards are two things, which are both taken extremely seriously in Beijing. Check out the singing and the park of cards videos if you do not beileve me. It is a whole another parallel universe that they find themselves in especially when playing cards, they would not notice you even if you hit them. It is a lot of fun to watch them playing cards and see how competitive it gets and don’t worry – they will not event notice that you are there.

Beijing, China
Lights of Beijing

I will for now leave you to check out the some of my photos from China as there is still a separate post on Yangshuo that waits to be written in addition to a Southern China photo gallery. I can for now say that the Southern China was amazing and very rewarding although my entire photography equipment visited the land of dead for a period long enough to put me in deep depression.  Oh about the chickens – well, many village hotels in Yangshuo advertise their properties with the photos of chickens hanging out in their gardens. So despite what I told you about me and the chickens and bird flu in my earlier, I ended up both going to China and hanging out with bunch of chickens. However, both sides managed to keep that healthy level of distance needed in every relationship. By the way, Chinese people do not think that they have a bird flu issue. I once asked to someone in one of the villages where the people was greatly outnumbered by the chickens and the response I got was ‘it is a rural area, there is no bird flu here, it is a city disease`. I was so foolishly wrong to think that – so were you most probably – bird flu was named the way it is because you catch it from poultry and mostly in rural areas.



 

 

 

  • Kathy Ellingson

    I enjoy your photos so much more when they are part of a blog, because your words make them come alive and help me feel what you experienced. I like the links to videos and music which have the same result. Two questions: are you saying you were kicked out of a cab in Beijing? And is public card playing a male activity much like backgammon is in other parts of the world? I liked the singing ~ I see there is a place for me if I ever decide to give up Sweet Adelines :-p

    • Burcu

      I had the singing recorded just for you. Yes – I got kicked out of a Beijing cab for a reason I will never know 🙂 Both women and men play cards on the street and mostly with each other. I was told by a friend that they even distribute cards in China if a plane is delayed.

  • Burcu

    One sad thing though, every other western tourist that i have met on the road told me that i probably never felt homesick in Beijing as Beijing cab drivers were exactly the same with Istanbul cab drivers. What a good reputation to have 🙂