journalism, personal

Chinese transit and toilets

By now you’ve probably read my account of kidnapping and hitchhiking in Qinhuangdao. OK, that’s a little too dramatic, but it was a harrowing experience. Nothing like staying up all night after you’ve arrived 12 time zones from home.

The only other problem with the efficient transit system: The buses run painfully slow. Supposedly, that’s for our own safety. As we all know, slower doesn’t equal safer, particularly when you’re changing lanes on a freeway. Today, on the way to the badminton venue, our bus driver attempted to merge through several lanes to the “Olympic” lane, drawing frantic honks from the short-fused drivers here. Then, about a mile later, she had to work her way back through all the lanes to exit. Flooring it in the right lane would’ve been much less frightening.

Just a random photo of a Wal-Mart (look for the blue sign)
Just a random photo of a Wal-Mart (look for the blue sign)

At the badminton venue, I encountered my first “squat” toilet. I remember reading about these, but I figured I wouldn’t see one unless I wandered off somewhere to an old building. Nope — there it was, right there in the spanking-new Beijing University of Technology gymnasium (not to be confused with the Beijing Science and Technology University gymnasium, as an Irish reporter did today before realizing badminton had no weight classes, or the Beijing Institute of Technology gymnasium). It looks like a toilet except that the seat is level with the floor. Fortunately, I didn’t have to use it, nor did I remember my camera.

Back in Qinhuangdao, the closest restroom to the media tribune (“press row,” in U.S. terms, though it’s several rows) was unisex. Stalls and urinals, thankfully with large dividers. The staff put up a sign asking people to close the doors behind them. The sign was ignored.

The media center is no better. The restrooms nearest us are on a corridor. The doors are never closed. Then people stop to chat in the corridor, though it’s narrow, smelly and offers a view of people zipping up.

We could put up a sign, but the media center offers more proof that journalists can’t read. The waste bins are all in pairs — one recyclable, one “other waste.” You certainly couldn’t tell a difference from looking at the bins.

The Aussies have found a better use for the corridor, at least. Here’s an impromptu cricket match:

Aussie cricket
Aussie cricket

Generally, though, I have few complaints. The people are so friendly that the journalists are reflexively suspicious of them. The food is OK, though I’m starting to shy away from all meat that isn’t at McDonald’s. And today, I interviewed three badminton players — a shy American, a charming Canadian and an excitable Irishman.

Tomorrow, I’m off to Tianjin for more soccer. It’ll be a successful day if I arrive back in Beijing anywhere close to the correct time.


One thought on “Chinese transit and toilets

  1. Knowing you as I do, I’m cracking up over the squat toilet thing. Hope you never have to use one. But if you do, I expect a detailed account (probably not posted on the blog, though).

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