Public Transport

Me and My Zixingche

PA187109
I had an amazing bike. I bought it when I moved back to Ireland from Singapore and I had grand plans about cycling into work in St. Stephen's Green from our house in Stoneybatter. I got a semi-customised Trek bicycle with special hand grips (no idea of the technical name) for people with sensitive wrists. Eoghan had a Trek too so it was important to me that we had matching bicycles as a sign of our commitment as a couple. I later discovered that having children with someone renders relationship-affirming-matching-cycles superfluous.

Anyway, I loved my bike. It had a bell and a basket and lots of gears that I didn't know what to do with. I loved it so much that I took my chances along the quays in Dublin every morning, wedged in between double deckers and trying not to employ my general approach to scary situations (i.e. closing my eyes and waiting for the danger to pass). I cycled to work in the rain, when I was tired, when I was grumpy, when I didn't feel like cycling. I gave it up after the first trimester of pregnancy (first time mothers do things like that) and my beautiful bike was relegated to a dusty corner.

The bike didn't get dusted off until Little A was 9 months old and we bought a bike seat for it. The seat had to go on my bike because Mr Oh had a road bike which was not suited to bike seats (so he told me). The weight on the back freaked me out as I cycled carefully down the cycle tracks of Brussels - slow, flat and safe - wobbling and occasionally wailing in terror.

I got better with the extra weight on the back and when we went on our month long road-trip honeymoon to Cork, Inishbofin, Cornwall and Normandy, we took our baby and our bikes with us. Finally, the bike was back in action, with a passenger this time…one that used to pull down my pants from his seat behind me and laugh uproariously as I screeched at him. He also liked to wriggle his feet free and use my coccyx as a foot rest. All was rosy for my beautiful bike.

And then we moved to Shanghai where I took one look at the traffic and bid the bike farewell. We moved the child-seat to Mr Oh's road bike which, miraculously, we discovered had been capable of carrying children this whole time (imagine that!). For a while, this was a good solution. And then Snugglepunk came along and it became clear that, at some point, I was going to have to get back on the saddle...literally.

But you know, two years is time enough for a bit of traffic desensitisation to set in so, a few weeks ago, I decided that I would rather cycle Snugglepunk the 5km to baby-school rather than subject us both to being flung around the inside of the overcrowded buses for half an hour every morning.

So, I went down to get my bike. It had been so long, it was hard to identify. I had to look at photos of my bike from our honeymoon to make sure I had the right one. But the weird thing was, it had recently been serviced and there was a lock on it that was not mine. Once we had decided this was definitely my bike, we put our own lock on in and that marked the beginning of the great bicycle standoff of 2015. This lasted approximately three days before the building management tipped me off that the person responsible for unlawfully requisitioning my bicycle was another building resident. I sent my heavies round to deal with him. Ok, I sent Mr Oh round to discuss the matter politely and, within minutes, my bicycle had been liberated and the great bicycle standoff of 2015 came for a rather anti-climactic end.

So, no excuses left, I strapped a rather perplexed Snugglepunk onto the back and off we went. We almost fell off before I even got out of the garage because...well, I forgot how to ride my bike and Snugglepunk was screaming like a banshee.

We almost crashed into a motorbike before we got out of the laneway because, you know, it's China, and almost is the key word anyway. And we were off. Within the first ten minutes, three people stopped me to tell me that Snugglepunk was asleep and shout at me because it was dangerous. He wasn't actually asleep, he was just examining a leaf which had become stuck to his knee but I just kept cycling shouting "it's not dangerous" and throwing them my best contemptuous glare - turns out its hard to throw contempt safely from a moving bicycle.

It occurred to me later that the reason the Chinese freak out when they see a child asleep on the back of a bike is because, generally, in China, the child bike seats don’t have harnesses. They don’t tend to put children this young on the back of bikes (unless on the lap of their mother who is sitting side saddle across the pannier). So, naturally, they think Snugglepunk is in danger of falling out. I’ve had a few long chats with Chinese ladies on bicycles while we’ve been stopped at traffic lights and I’ve explained to them about European bike seat engineering. They remain unconvinced. Some have even tried to poke Snugglepunk awake on the journey back from nursery (he has never once stayed awake for the whole thing).

There's one straight big long road from our house to Snugglepunk's nursery. We didn't cycle on that though because bicycles are banned from this road, for good reason. Chinese buses were the whole reason we were cycling in the first place because they are death-traps and the bus drivers are, without exception, angry lunatics who will plough into anything that crosses their path and enjoy randomly braking for no particular reason.

So, we had to make our way to nursery through a series of back streets, mostly cycling the wrong way down one-way streets. This is ok in Shanghai though. It would be foolish not to. My strategy was to hitch myself behind a slow-moving granny and just do what she did. Sometimes, the granny would do weird stuff like veer into oncoming traffic but, in these cases, I just made a judgement call.

Cars came at us from every direction, motorbikes laden with boxes careened out of driveways, scooters broke lights when we were crossing roads, people stepped off the pavement into our path right in front of us and at one point we seemed to be playing chicken with a flatbed truck. I kept my eyes open, my wits about me and I moved at the pace of a gently scampering cockroach.

Chinese traffic might seem crazy and dangerous - ok, it is a little bit crazy and dangerous - but there's a beauty in it too...something very reflective of Chinese society generally. Everyone is pulling out in front of other people, breaking lights, ignoring pedestrian crossings...but they won't hurt you (one hopes). They know you're there, they see you, they expect you. And if you cut them off, or pull out in front of them, or make them slam on their brakes, they don't get angry...they just shrug and get on with it. There is a kind of live and let live vibe on the roads.

It makes me think of a story I read a few years ago about a town somewhere that was getting rid of traffic lights and signs to make the roads less dangerous…and I think there’s something in that. In Shanghai, no one relies on a light to guarantee their safety or a sign to give them a right of way. Everyone is looking around, all the time, judging the safety risk, making calls…they’re just probably not doing it aloud like I do. I think it makes things safer generally. All surprise is no surprise! (This is a new phrase I’ve just coined and I’m going to use it liberally once I figure out what it means).

So, for a while, things were great. And then one morning, my bike wasn’t in the apartment bike garage (the one with a 24-hour guard outside and enough CCTV cameras to make a Sharon Stone movie). It had been stolen!

In fact, Mr Oh’s bike had gone missing a few weeks before but he didn’t get very far with our building in making a fuss, being stopped in his tracks by their claim that the CCTV footage “only went back 24 hours”. (Also he had left the bike unlocked and unattended for several days in the garage, feeling safe in the knowledge that no one in China would have any compunction to steal a bike with a frame they’d need a ladder to get on to).

Well, one bike gone could be chalked up to carelessness, but this was two bikes in a month! So I looked around and started shouting at the first person I saw.

No one else’s bikes had been stolen. Only ours, both of ours. I demanded to see the CCTV footage. They refused. I went down to the lobby every hour and shouted at whoever I saw there. I was just angry…and shouting felt good. I didn’t think it would make my bike come back. I banged on the security room door and asked to look at their cameras (ok, I knocked politely but they still refused to tell me anything).

But something happened, it seemed my shouting was working. They asked me to write down the value of our bikes, both of them. And then a few days later I was presented with a letter of apology and, in a very Chinese way, an envelope stuffed with money. I asked if they had seen who stole my bike on the CCTV footage. They said they had. I asked if they knew who it was. They looked to the side, giggled nervously and said “a stranger”.

I looked at the pile of money in my hand. I knew they knew more than they were saying. Something wasn’t right - I knew they wanted me to stop shouting and asking questions. I was being bought off. I was surprisingly ok with that.

I toddled off and bought a new bike. It’s orange and while I really wish my bike hadn’t been stolen in the first place…the best way to get over an old bike is to find a new one.





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The Shanghai Smack-down

IMG_1607 - Version 2

You might be wondering if I’m going to spend the next three years writing about the 911 bus. I might. Although eventually I may no longer be phased by the friendly harassment visited upon me by the old people of China - or maybe I’ll just start dressing my child in a way that they find more acceptable i.e. more clothes, looser socks, none of this fancy sling business.

I wrote a few weeks ago about getting on a particularly peculiar version of my trusty 911 - this time with tables inside and no roof on top. It has become something of a regular on my route. I took a few covert photos last time I was on just in case no one believes me that the bus has tables. It’s hard to take sneaky photos when you’re the only baby-toting foreigner on the route. I probably should have just taken the photos openly but, to be honest, they think I’m weird enough as it is. If you look closely you can also see the shouting bus conductress behind the tv.

IMG_1612

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The table-bus has become my favorite way to travel but it wasn’t until yesterday that I found myself on it unencumbered by Baby A and therefore able to check out the roofless upper deck. It’s essentially a dilapidated tourist bus which, presumably, is why there’s no roof. It was a glorious autumnal Shanghai morning. The sun was beaming down and the world was looking very fresh and pretty. I bounded up the stairs of the bus and was surprised to find it totally deserted despite the fact that downstairs was wedged. I had the whole top deck to myself - just me, the breeze and the Shanghai sunshine - bliss! I couldn’t fathom why the Chinese wouldn’t come up here on such a lovely day but they can be peculiar about the elements. As a nation, they’re not very outdoorsy.

So I was happily relaxing on the top deck on my ownsers, peering down at the peeps, soaking up the rays and…wham!…smacked in the face by a branch. Thankfully, all my fellow bus riders were downstairs and my humiliation was therefore without witness. I recovered swiftly but spent the rest of the journey crouched down in the aisle keeping an eye on the various dangling electrical wires and foliage that suddenly seemed closer than would be acceptable to ensure general bodily safety. The lesson of the day was - if the Chinese don’t do something, think about why that might be. Do they not sit upstairs because they’re peculiar about the outdoors or is it more likely because they don’t fancy being beat-down by a tree?

It was an educational experience. I took it on the chin (literally) and dealt with it by doing what one does when one gets bitch slapped by China - turned on country music. Nothing is less China than country.

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111 Boxes

huaihai

The temperature has dropped ten degrees in the last few days. Baby A is cutting molars and his gums look like a war zone. Mr Oh has caught some Chinese version of the Ebola virus and is wracked with fever and inexplicable pains - apparently the worst thing about being sick is my insistence on sticking a thermometer in his ear every ten minutes. I like the beepy noise. He should be glad I’ve chosen technological gadgetry over accuracy when it comes to determining his core body temperature. As the Belgians will tell you, there’s only one way to get a truly accurate reading from a thermometer.

In other news, our shipment arrived. It was a bit of a shock. I had presumed it had sunk (Mr Oh only wished it had). For the last two months we had lived very well without the 111 boxes that arrived in our apartment on Saturday. “I wonder what’s in them all”, I mused as I gazed upon the stacks of unopened boxes that littered our heretofore minimalist abode. “Your crap”, Mr Oh said pointedly. I think his tone was a bit harsh. At least I brought useful things into our marriage - a full set of cutlery and crockery, a dining room table, a bed, a sofa, a tv, a giant bean bag. He brought a guitar and a lifetime supply of cod liver oil.

I have to admit that some of it was unnecessary. An x-ray of my foot, for example, did I think I’d need that in China? {Post-script - Mr Oh has asked me also to mention the Wedgewood pot filled with novelty, flag badge-pins and the set of ornamental granite elephants}. The problem is that my parents don’t want my crap either - they have four children, all of whom have now moved out of the family home while forgetting to bring any of their stuff with them. I think they brought it on themselves - if they wanted an uncluttered house, they shouldn’t have had grandchildren. Poor parents, no sooner had the youngest one moved out, than they had to start filling the house with travel cots, high chairs and prams. In response, they built a gym/shed in the back garden where they go to burn off the stress of not being able to live in a stark and graceful manifestation of Swedish design.

I realized, as we unpacked the boxes, that you could psychoanalyze our personalities on the basis of what we brought to China. I am responsible for the 7 large boxes of effervescent Solpadeine, the 150 doses of Dioralyte and the seemingly endless amount of Motillium. I’m either sickly, hypochondriacal or expecting a lot of hangovers - possibly a mix of all three. Mr Oh brought over six deodorants and at least a gallon of Savlon in three different configurations - liquid, cream and dry spray. Based on this one might conclude that he fears uncleanliness and germs (coincidentally those are two things that China has in abundance). Baby A brought a lot of stuff that he is no longer interested in or no longer fits into. He’s afraid of change.

Despite the piles of unsorted clothes and the question of where we’re going to put everything, unpacking all our not-entirely-necessary stuff has been fun. The one truly useful item I found was our baby carrier which has meant that I can bring Baby A to playschool on my back and no longer feel like the 13 kilo toddler is pulling my spine out through my abdomen. The downside of this is that he gets up to all kinds of stuff back there and I can’t see him (although I do carry a little mirror in my pocket so I can occasionally take a peek). This leaves me very little control over who pokes and prods him or pops walnuts in his mouth. He seems to like it though and generally falls asleep on the bus ride home.

The Chinese on the bus are even less convinced by the wisdom of my parenting choices than they were before. I was standing on the 911 bus yesterday with Baby A on my back in the sling. I was being offered a seat at least every 30 seconds and was trying to explain that I couldn’t really sit down without squashing the baby. There were two OCGs (old Chinese grannies) who were particularly vexed by this arrangement and the conversation went something like this:

OCP1: Here (offering me her seat) - sit down.
Me: No thanks, I can’t sit down.
OCP1: But he’s tired.
Me: Yes, he’s asleep.
OCP1: You must sit down - he’s tired.
Me: I’m not sure I understand.
OCP1: He’s not comfortable.
Me: He’s asleep. He’s comfortable.
OCP2: His socks are too tight.
Me: What??
OCP2: (lifting a limp toddler leg and pinging his socks down to rub a sock band mark) See? Blood problems. His socks are too tight. Not comfortable.
OCP1: (tutting in agreement). Not comfortable.
Me: He’s asleep!
OCP2: You must sit down.
Me: Ok. (Sitting down and perching very uncomfortably at the edge of the seat so as to avoid crushing Baby A’s chest).
OCP1 and OCP2: (simultaneously smiling and nodding). Yes, he’s comfortable now.
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My Shanghai Morning

bank

Some days in China are weird and cool and randomly bonkers. The rest, though, are just me getting about the day like I would anywhere else in the world albeit with more spitting and debris involved (none of it mine). Some days rock - and some make me want to sit in the storage cupboard and drink gin from the bottle.

This morning, for example, I woke at 6.30 am with a stiff neck from yet another night spent on the sofa bed without any pillows because our shipment hasn’t arrived yet. I considered the chances of getting away with a shower before Baby A woke up demanding things. I also tried to recall when I might last have had a shower…two days ago? Three? This is what they mean by ‘letting oneself go’ perhaps. I tiptoed oh-so-quietly out the door towards the bathroom and just as I reached it, I heard a plaintiff little voice squeak ‘Ma-ma’ over the baby monitor. I think he’s got bat-hearing. I do accept however that it is not socially acceptable to give up showering entirely just because you live in China and can guarantee you won’t bump into anyone you know (because you don’t know anyone) so I brought the monitor into the bathroom and listened to Baby A chat away to himself. I don’t think ‘Ma-ma’ means me anyway - he points at old men on the bus and says ‘Ma-ma’. He picks up dead caterpillars and says ‘Ma-ma’. I’m not sure he has a name for me at all yet - he’s only just realizing that I’m not part of him, like a really big arm.

I popped out of the shower, wrapped myself in my towel, forgetting of course that I had used the same towel yesterday as a makeshift picnic blanket for Baby A and Babybel. There was a dried fusilli poking my belly button and I ended up smelling like an Italian deli rather than the clean-tinged-with-lime-blossom I was aiming for. Baby A thought I smelled nice and spent most of the bus ride into play school licking my shoulder which is a step up from licking the people beside him or, even worse, the window. He also smelled nice having had an emergency bath just twenty minutes earlier. It’s best not to dwell on that part of the day.

The bus itself was a bit surreal. In fact, I wonder if it was originally a bus at all. It had tables inside - old wooden tables screwed into the floor. It also had no roof upstairs. Like one of those open top tour buses. I think someone put the ‘bus’ together from scrap metal, twine and the remnants of an old schoolhouse. The bus driver spent the journey hurling abuse (at least I think it was abuse but you never know in Chinese) at a woman sitting half way back who also seemed to work on the bus in some capacity. Her job appeared to be to shout the name of each stop when we arrived at it. That would seem acceptable enough were it not for the fact that the bus had a automated PA system installed which also announced the name of the approaching stop. Bus worker lady made it a point to shout louder than the disembodied voice that was trying to do her out of a job. It was a stark, if noisy and slightly odd, representation of the struggle of the human worker to remain relevant in the face of increasing technological advancements.

After dropping Baby A at playschool, I had to catch two metros downtown for a bank appointment which would hopefully allow me access to online banking. I say downtown but, in fact, Shanghai downtown is an area about the size of Ulster so downtown could be anywhere really. This was, I suppose more downtown that the downtown I was in previously so maybe it was rightdowntown or downtown+ or hyper downtown?

As I waited between trains, I caught sight of an ad for something. I’m trying to improve my Chinese reading so rather than glazing over Chinese script, which is the natural reaction to so many squiggles in such a small area, I tried to read it. For once, I actually knew every character in the ad (there were only four so I don’t think I should crack out the champagne just yet). My short-lived chuffedness with self came to an end when I realized that, despite knowing all the characters, I didn’t know what the sign said. The first character was ‘ocean’ 海, the second was ‘horse’
, the third was ‘king’ 王, and the fourth was ‘country’国. Ocean Horse King Country - hmmmmm. I was standing there for quite some time trying to work this out. What’s the point in studying Chinese characters if you don’t know what they mean even when you know what they mean!? Eventually, my finely tuned intellectual powers, in conjunction with the pictures on the ad led me to believe that Ocean Horse was actually Seahorse and then I reckoned King Country was Kingdom. Ta-Da! I have cracked the Chinese language. Seahorse Kingdom - so obvious! Now, if only I could work out what Seahorse Kingdom means. The train came and, as a result, the meaning of Seahorse Kingdom is likely to remain an eternal mystery to me. Maybe it’s a circus show with seahorses. That would not surprise me.

The bank was relatively uneventful. I think it’s a special foreigner bank because people take tickets and queue - there was no pushing or shouting. Also no one spat on the floor. It was barely like being in China at all. I took the opportunity of being hyper downtown to pop into M&S (I never move anywhere that Mr Marks and Mr Spencer have not already installed an outpost) and stock up on random foreigner goodies like chutney, fruity tea and mayo.

Two more metros later and I was back to pick up Baby A. He was wrecked and fell asleep on the bus. I limped home from the bus stop - at a pace a drunken turtle could have bested - with a backpack full of groceries, a sleeping toddler in my arms and a blister on my toe. It was only noon. I was exhausted. I still didn’t know what Seahorse Kingdom means but at least I managed to dodge the drips from the underwear drying out the windows above the pavement. Plus, at no stage did fish guts land on my exposed skin. That’s a winning morning if ever there was one.
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BMW

P9225430
One of the biggest challenges about China so far has been working out how to transport ourselves from point A to point B without having an accident at point C (point C being anywhere and everywhere between point A and B). This is particularly challenging when it’s just me and Baby A hitting the town.

There are a few options - none of them great.

1. Taxi
Pros:
  • Taxis are cheap as cucumbers. The average journey costs me about €2, even if we’re traveling quite a distance.
  • They’re also often the quickest way to get around if points A and B aren’t linked directly by public transport.
Cons:
  • Taxis are deathtraps. By law, there have to be seat belts and, in defense of taxi drivers, the belts are always there - but often the things you plug them into aren’t. The middle lap belts are never there and they’d be the most useful for strapping Baby A down as I reckon side-impact is the biggest crash risk (my thoughts are all sunshine and rainbows sometimes…). It’s not feasible to bring a carseat with us when we go out because they’re too big to carry - plus the whole no seatbelt thing kind of rules that one out. The taxi drivers are also, for the most part, homicidal maniacs. They weave in and out of lanes on the motorway, often missing other cars by millimeters. They speed down the wrong side of the street as if laughing in the face of serious bodily injury. They break lights. They appear to make a sport of attempting to run over pedestrians especially when pedestrians are crossing the road at a green man. Being in a Shanghai taxi is not unlike being in Grand Theft Auto, without the theft and without the ‘just a video game’ aspect. They’re also icky - like the petri dishes of the transport world harboring infection and disease in their rickety, sticky unwashed cabeese. *shudder*.
  • Do you need more? If the fact that taxis are like rollercoasters with the bolts loosened isn’t enough to rule them out, I have more. They’re impossible to get at rush hour. You can’t book them in advance. The drivers are obnoxious and frequently shout at me if they don’t like where I’ve asked them to take me. I do not like being shouted at, even when I haven’t a clue what they’re saying, I still know that it’s shouting. I want to learn good Chinese for the sole purpose of throwing years of pent-up taxi rage back at them. Just you wait, when I get to the chapter that teaches me the vocabulary to say “you are going to go straight to Buddhist hell for endangering the lives of innocent passengers with the reckless and feckless showboating you claim is driving” I will be hopping into the next available taxi to practice my homework.
  • Baby A hates taxis. He won’t sit still in them (considering he isn’t buckled down in any way this isn’t surprising). He keeps reaching for the door handle and screaming his head off which gives the unfortunate impression to passers by that I’ve kidnapped him. Thankfully they’re not too bothered with white women kidnapping white babies here in China. I tried giving him the iPhone to amuse him during one particularly trantrummy journey with the result that he threw up all over me, all over himself and all over the taxi. As luck would have it, the taxi driver was so busy shouting abuse at the world around him that he didn’t notice the sound or smell of baby projectile vomit until after we’d exited his vehicle. By then we were far away and I was comforting a sobbing Baby A with vows that I would never make him get in another nasty taxi again.
  • Enough? I think so.

2. Metro
Pros:
  • It’s fast, it’s clean and it’s easy to navigate without Chinese.
Cons:
  • There are only ‘up’ escalators and no ‘down’ ones so maneuvering Baby A and his hotwheels can be tricky. I think I’m setting records for number of steps a baby has been bumped down in a buggy. Most of the time, I lift him out and put him on my hip holding him with one arm while I lift the buggy with the other arm. You try doing that with a 13kg thrashing toddler, a 5kg buggy, flip-flops and wet steps.
  • During rush hour, the metro is jim-jammed so the buggy has to be folded with one arm (while carrying toddler who refuses to be put down) and slung over shoulder like sawn off shotgun. With no free hands, it’s harder to control Baby A when he tries to rip the earrings clean out of the ear of the woman standing beside us. Thankfully, they’re clip ons.

3. Bus
Pros:
  • It’s so cheap as to almost be free. Depending on the class of bus, a journey either costs us about 15c or 25c.
  • It’s a fun place to hang out and meet old Chinese people. Baby A is a big fan of old Chinese people and they’re exceedingly fond of him - even when he pokes them in the eye. He stands on the seats, shrieks and generally comports himself like the Queen of Sheba in small boy-child form. The Chinese think he is hilarious with his shouting, pointing and general mayhem. They pick him up and pass him round. Sometimes it’s hard to retrieve him when our stop comes up - too much fun is being had on the 8am party bus. As we’re alighting he often waves magnanimously and blows kisses to everyone. He’s going to be so disappointed the first time I take him on Dublin Bus.
Cons:
  • The buses are not buggy friendly so I have to carry Baby A on a hip-shelf or sling. He’s not exactly lithe. The Chinese though are very aware of this and I have always been offered a seat. As soon as I get on the bus, some young Chinese student bounds out of his/her seat and offers it to me. It’s a far cry from the way things are done in Brussels, or even Dublin.
  • The stop information is all in Chinese so it can be difficult to work out where you’re going if you don’t read any Chinese. My reading is coming along quite well so it doesn’t bother me so much. I’ve never seen another foreigner on the bus - I think they mostly stick to taxis and metros. Lots of foreigners also have drivers. Sometimes, on my tired days, I dream of being chauffeured about the place by my own private driver but then we’d miss out on all the buscapades and I would miss out on developing my language skills to the point where I could hold conversations like:
    • OCP (Old Chinese Person): What a cute girl!
    • Me: He’s a boy.
    • OCP: Are you sure? He looks like a girl.
    • Me: Really? He’s definitely a boy.
    • OCP: Does he speak Chinese?
    • Me: He doesn’t speak anything. He’s only 14 months.
    • OCP: Are you sure? He looks about 3.
    • Me: I’m sure.
    • OCP: I think he speaks Chinese. He said ‘mama’. ‘Mama’ is Chinese.
    • Me: *Silenced*
    • OCP: (To Baby A in Chinese) Say ‘mama’.
    • Baby A: Mama.
    • OCP: He speaks Chinese, I told you.

4. Walking
Pros:
  • It’s free. It’s exercise. Baby A likes it. It’s a good way to discover things.
Cons:
  • It’s not a good idea to do too much of it on a bad air day.
  • Crossing the road is like running through no man’s land with a team of robots throwing car shaped rocks at you (see point on taxis, also applies to all other cars and buses). Even when you have a green man to cross the road, cars turning in any direction from anywhere - as long as they’re turning - can drive through the pedestrian crossing. Supposedly, the pedestrians have right of way but there’s no point in playing chicken with a gold-plated hummer when all you’ve got in your defense is the moral high ground and a biting toddler. A few times, I’ve defiantly taken the chance that no-one really wants to run over the foreign mother with the young child but I should probably stop playing Russian roulette with Baby A’s life and just play it safe.

Conclusion:

There’s no simple way to get around Shanghai with a toddler. It all depends on where we’re going, what we’re doing at the other end, what the quickest way of getting there is etc. We get the bus every day to and from playcare. We usually get the metro if we’re going somewhere a bit further afield and we walk if we’re within walking distance. It takes a bit of planning and a bit of lifting but it’s always a more interesting experience - good and bad - than life with a driver and car. The only thing I generally don’t do on my own with Baby A are taxis - for reason I have extensively outlined above.

As our Shanghainese estate agent, David, told me once when I asked him if he had a car, ”You know I only use BMW….Bus Metro Walk”. Works for us too.

Cultural Observation Point: While I am always offered a seat on the bus or metro when carrying Baby A, no one has ever offered to help me up or down the stairs when I’m struggling with the buggy. I’ve thought about this and have come to the conclusion that it’s probably because, unlike on the bus or metro, there’s no sign on the wall telling them that they should.







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