Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Screw the stroller, pick up the baby and RUN!

We have just officially experienced sensory over-load.

We walked down to the nearby park, approximately 4 long city blocks.

If we haven't mentioned it yet, or if you haven't experienced it, traffic here is NUTS. Lanes are apparently optional. Scooters everywhere with up to four family members. And, when I say "everywhere," I mean it literally. In the road, in the separate feeder lane for two-wheeled vehicles, on the sidewalk, and as of tonight, in the cross-walk with us, as well.

The scooters are electric, so they are like stealth submarines, or something. You never hear them coming. No lights. No helmets.

Here, the best that I can tell, cars have the right of way at all times. The green crossing light seems like a mere invitation to come out and play in the middle of the street. Like a tackle that pulls and runs parallel to the line of scrimmage, blocking ahead of the tailback as they turn up-field, as we cross the first half of the street, Heather is on our left protecting the stroller. In the middle, she switches to the right hand side and runs interference until we can hit the curb. And yet, no accidents. How do they do it? Our friends D&G shared a video with us from their adoption trip to Hanoi. It may not be that crazy, but it's something else.

So, why do three Americans cross the street, anyway?

Tonight it was to go to the park to see the dancing. People gather with a leader, who has a disc or mp3 player and a basic PA blaring some blend of Chinese or Asian music with a heavy dance groove. People pay to participate, and it is essentially like an aerobics class for the dancers.

Now, this is a large plaza, and tonight there were at least three groups in different parts. As you walk between them the music from one co-mingles with the other, like dueling boom boxes at the beach. Throngs of people gather around to watch.

Now here is where it got weird. Ella Man Li can attract, and work, a crowd. This we know. But tonight, it started with one man, then a family stopped, then another. Before we knew it, we were surrounded on three sides by a group of AT LEAST 50 people, with our backs against a fountain.

People were smiling, saying undecipherable things to us in Chinese, pushing their children forward to take a look, etc. The loud music is playing, neon lights are pulsing, and I am getting seriously nervous. Not scared, but trying to assess if we should be scared. We finally said, "thank you, thank you," and eased our way to another part of the park.

AND IT HAPPENED AGAIN! This time it was smaller, and having survived the first experience, I took the time to pull out my video camera. Heather and I locked eyes and just smiled. As for Ella, she was all giggles and moving feet, keeping approximate time with the music. We got out of that one too, and moved up to the first group, closer to the exit, where our guide Xiulan was among the dancers.

I am a little behind on world events, but in the back of my mind was story about the mob accosting the people at the Haitian airport that were escorting a group of children out of the country. Please understand that we encountered nothing but smiles, but the whole thing was overwhelming. On the way back to the hotel, I wondered, "Is this what it's like to be Brad Pitt?" We laughed pretty hard about our 15 minutes of fame - once all three of us were back at the hotel (which of course, required crossing the street again!)



  1. We encountered the same thing in Chongqing in 2003. Except we were traveling with 12 other families-you are brave.

  2. you two need to write a book...your style of writing is so fun and I would love a book. Got it? Not that you are going to be busy or anything but can you do a book...

    miss you more today than yesterday but not as much as tomorrow.


  3. We also experienced the same thing in Chongqing in 2006. Although we mainly traveled in large groups, there was only one family with us at the time. Aside from being completely surrounded, I was about a foot taller than most of the people talking to us. It completely freaked me out, but we did the same - smiling and politely attempting to walk away.