A friend of mine visiting from the states made an interesting observation in his second or third week here:
He said, there are two rules for driving in China.
1. Never, ever let someone in front of you.
2. Never hit someone.
Number one, is number one for a reason. Driving in China, is a never ending game of chicken.
Picture this: One lane is about to end. Two cars, side-by-side are racing to cut in front of the other. Who will be the game's loser, thus losing all kinds of face, and brake first?? Dah, dah, dunnn!
But, believe it, or not, I have witnessed fewer accidents here than in the US. Now, this may not be a fair comparison, seeing as I am not on the road as often while I'm in China. I live on campus, and go downtown via bus or taxi a few times a week.... but as crazy as the driving strikes waiguoren (foreigners) like myself, it seems like I would have seen more than two accidents in a year and half, a fraction of the number of accidents I saw in only two months at home this summer.
And, believe it, or not, I am going to miss these crazy taxi experiences. Tonight, I managed to actually have a real conversation with my taxi driver that varied from the usual.
Me: San Xia Da Xue (Three Gorges University)
Taxi Driver: *grunt*
Taxi Driver (after several minutes of studying my foreign features in the rearview mirror): Ni shi na guoren? (What's your nationality?"
Me: Meiguode (American)
TD: Nide hanyu hen hao! (Your chinese is very good!)
*he repeats himself*
Me: Oh. HA.
TD: aegqbeixgbenagb (something indecipherable and far and beyond my language skills)
*he repeats himself*
Me: Ting bu dong (don't understand)
..Several minutes pass...
TD: bgosnhrgbwgb (something else I don't understand.)
Me: Dubuqi, wode zhongwen bu hao. (Sorry, my Chinese is bad.)
TD: hai, bu cuo! (still, not bad!)
And we may go through several rounds of this where I yell out random answers to questions taxi drivers usually ask ("I'm an English teacher! I like Chinese food! I've been in China for a year!)
But, tonight. Tonight was different- my taxi driver using dramatic gestures, spoke slowly and clearly. I wanted to kiss him. Someone who actually understand how to speak with someone with limited knowledge of the language?!? It was a Christmas Miracle.
So, for those of you wondering what a conversation with a Chinese taxi driver might look like, let me share with you: (I will spare you of each time the question had to be repeated due to my poor understanding.)
He asked me where I was from. He asked me what I did. He asked me how I like Yichang. He asked me if I was married. He told me I should find a Chinese husband. I laughed. He asked if I had an American boyfriend. I said yes. (It's hard to describe "seeing someone" in this culture.) He told me something where he blew air between his lips and clapped his hands together, which I have a feeling was some kind of talk about relationships, and caused the cars behind us to lay on their horns because traffic had moved on ahead of us. I told him I was leaving China in two weeks. He asked me why. I told him I'd been in China for over a year and needed to go home. He grunted in understanding. He asked me if I knew my numbers in Chinese. I counted to ten for him. He asked me to read something on a sign. I looked at it and told him I couldn't. He pointed to another sign, I told him I only knew 300 characters. He said that wasn't bad. I directed him to my apartment. He was impressed by my knowledge of "turn left" and "go straight". I paid the fare. He said bye. I told him to be happy everyday because I didn't know how to say anything else slightly meaningful when saying goodbye.
"Be happy everyday!" written: 天天快乐！(Tian tian kuai le.) It's a common "best wishes" kind of statement here. And I still can't get over how strange and cheesy it sounds to us Westerners. Now, be happy everyday, everyone. That's an order.
**No, that is not my taxi driver in the picture. I stole this photo from the internet.