I know that this does not seem like a theme that warrants a blog post. Unless of course that author is a 3 year old child, in which case “Today I Saw a Rock” and “Today I Put my Hand in the Rubbish Bin” would be equally fascinating experiences. But I assure you, being a foreigner in China means that almost every experience outside of the hotel is a challenge and crossing the road is no exception.
One thing that I would say about the traffic in China is that there does not appear to be any hard and fast “rules”, mostly just suggestions. For example, while there are traffic lanes, it appears that they are only there to say “here is a path that you could follow if you want to, otherwise feel free to drive in any part of the road (or sidewalk) that is not occupied by another vehicle or person”. There are also traffic lights which, when red, appear to signal “Stop! Unless you are in a rush. Also if you just simply don’t feel like stopping could you be so kind as to beep at the pedestrians that are in your way”.
While you might think that this would cause many accidents and traffic jams, from what I have seen, it does not. In fact, I think that I prefer it this way because what is lacking in terms of rules and order is totally compensated for in efficiency. By this I mean that I does not seem to matter how much traffic there is on the road I always seem to be able to get to the office in around 5 mins, thanks entirely to some dubious driving tactics.
Anyway, this leads me to my point. ThoughWorks Chengdu is located near the intersection of Tianfu Avenue Middle Section and another very wide and busy road that I don’t seem to be able to work out what it is called. The intersection itself is about the size of a football field. The first time I saw this intersection was when I was heading in to work on the first day and I thought it was the most frightful site I had ever seem in my life! There were cars, scooters, bicycles and people going forwards and backwards, left and right, zigging and zagging, stopping, and basically from my perspective doing whatever they could to get in an accident. This thing was intense!!! I know that China erected the Great Wall to keep the Monguls out, but in all honesty I think that if they just put this thing between them and Mongolia, not a single person would have been game to cross it.
After work on that first day M-Unit and I had to somehow get home (which is not a trivial exercise when you dont know the way, the language or where to find any form of transport). We developed a strategy which entailed waiting at the main road until we saw a taxi and then leaving the communicating of where we actually wanted to go and directions to get there as a problem for future selves to deal with. We realised that it was futile to wait where we were as there was clearly no taxi that was ever going to come, so we needed to get to the other more established part to the software park. This involved walking across this death trap. Fortunately, as anyone who knows either M-Unit or myself would attest, we are both (with the possible exception of M-Unit) the manliest of men, fearful of nothing, and not to be beaten by anything, willing to put our lives on the line for the prize of a taxi home at a moments notice. So we did it!!! It may have taken 25min to work up the courage, and it may have involved us walking…then running…then stopping…then getting scared and running back…maybe a few tears and some girly squealing noises. But we did it!! Tales will be told of our bravery.