Kunming confessions

I’ve been traveling alone in Yunnan province in southwestern China for the past couple of days, which has forced me to speak Chinese pretty much wherever I go.

I’ve made big strides after two years of Chinese lessons, and I’m slowly trying to come out of my shell and be more chatty. This morning, the cab driver who picked me up from the airport in the city of Dali was quite a character. Continue reading

This language is bleatable

Arriving in China for the first time without having ever studied the language is a bit like being shot out of the womb. You can’t speak or read signs, so you’re forced to point and use body language to interact with this strange, new world.

The first time I hailed a taxi in Beijing, I must have reeked of that fresh off the boat smell because the driver immediately began peppering me with questions. He didn’t speak English, and I only understood three Chinese expressions, ni hao (你好, hello) xie xie (谢谢, thank you) and dui (对, correct).

When we came to a red light, he drew the letters U-S-A on the steering wheel and raised his hand, extending his fingers horizontally so his palm was flat like a duck bill. He moved his hand toward me, making a “whiiissshhh” sound as it cut through the air. Continue reading

Video of toddler left for dead sparks debate

On Oct. 13, a 2-year-old girl walking alone in the middle of a market street in the southern Chinese city of Foshan was run over by a van. Had her story stopped there, it likely would have generated little interest from the Chinese media. But a security camera in the market recorded the accident, and the video would horrify people around the world.

It showed that the van didn’t stop after it hit the girl, and neither did the next 18 people who passed by her body. A few slowed their pace and glanced down, the kind of thing a jogger on a trail might do to step around a dying animal.

A few minutes after she was struck by the van, a second vehicle ran over her leg. The girl barely moved. The vehicle kept going. Eventually, a trash collector stopped, pulled the girl’s body to the side of the street and left to find help.

The girl, later identified as Wang Yue, was critically injured and taken to a hospital. The video of the accident was posted on Youku, China’s version of Youtube. It quickly went viral, with viewers expressing their disgust at the people who walked by Wang Yue but didn’t help. Continue reading