A country large enough to hold five time zones fails to fill the view from my portal as the overcast skyline finally comes into view about 500 feet up. Nevertheless, I am hopeful the skies will clear at some point during my three-month tenure so I can fill my eyes, and lens, with some of the great culture of this powerful nation. And speaking of time zones…
The majority of China shares one time zone. Beijing time. This isn’t a problem for comrades in Shanghai and along the eastern coast of China but once you start to travel west… Well let’s just say that the efficient Chinese populace does compensate with a little time standard that is unrecognized by the government. So the big question is why would they do this? Glad you asked!
This time zone paradox was a result of the completion of China’s communist revolution in 1949 to reflect unification of all of China.* Lucky them right? Hopefully my journeys will extend far enough to see the effects of this change but as this first week has gone, it’s unlikely. As for Chinese immigration and government services, their professionalism was impressive.
Immigration was efficient and easy, and unlike Wal-mart, all stalls were filled with immigration specialists to check you through the process and get you on your way. If you’re staying in the city you will need to get a metro card. This pre-charged card can then be swiped at any terminal as you board the metro(subway). The card is not just good for the metro either, taxis also use them so make sure you put a few RNB on to cover a cab ride, just make sure you get the same card back when you depart the cab. RNB is the slang term for the Chinese currency, just like buck is a dollar, and with a couple RNB you can ride the metro to just about anywhere. American subways share similar color coded routes so if you have ridden before it’s really a no-brainer.
Downtown Shanghai blew my mind! Its diverse mesh of technological and archaic ways of doing business was astounding. One minute you will be dazzled by high rises and lighted billboards just before a group of bicycles ride by with building materials lashed to their baskets. With all the great technology found in the city it is amazing how many manual tasks are still done by hand: Hauling wood and debris from a construction site with three wheeled bicycles, hand mixing large amounts of concrete, using axes to shape stakes from chunks of wood. So many machines could do these simple tasks quickly and efficiently but the Chinese either prefer to do it themselves or are unaware of the machines that could do it. From my short experience I would lean toward the latter, but still the resourcefulness of the Chinese culture is amazing.
From creating small farms on empty city lots and under overhead power line structures to creating elaborate bamboo scaffolds that reach stories high and can be brought down in less than an hour, the populous has a firm grasp on being inventive. Sure some of their inventions really put safety to the test but when it’s all said and done nobody has gotten hurt, and isn’t that what really matters?