Monopoly Deal

If you’re a people watcher, China is your place. Unless you’re in your apartment or using a squat (and even then sometimes), people are everywhere. As locations go though, buses are usually the least interesting. You might see a toddler in false lashes and sparkly hairspray, just because it’s the weekend, or someone getting trapped in the door trying to get off as the bus drives away. All run of the mill goings on. But, on my way to meet a few friends in the city for a catch up over a fierce game of Monopoly Deal, I witnessed something that made me want to cry, vomit and jump out of the window all at once. Buses have two doors – one at the front to get on and pay, and another halfway down where you get off. It was dark, the bus was fairly packed as usual, and I was stood by the back door with just a few stops to go. Towards the front of the bus was a bit of commotion, and I could see eyes on one man who’d just boarded. Some were barking orders at him, and I wondered if someone was offering him their seat, in the aggressive way people will command you to accept their generosity. Then I noticed others just staring in disgust. I could tell they were telling him to get off, and so he swung down towards the back door of the bus, and it’s when he reached me that I noticed his bleeding, severed arm. No hand, just a stump wrapped in a bloodsoaked bandage. Probably maimed in some industrial accident judging by his work clothes. He seemed a bit out of it, although with it enough to have chosen the bus that stops at the local hospital. I think they’d been telling him to get off and take a taxi, but it’s a luxury that not everyone can afford. I’ve been warned as a foreigner never get mixed up in anything. If your taxi has a crash, get out and walk away. If you hear something kicking off, look in the other direction. If a man with a bloody stump wedges up next to you on the bus, don’t make eye contact and definitely don’t go anywhere near his bodily fluids. I feel ashamed that my initial reaction was horror and repulsion, followed by a selfish desire to put as much distance between us as my little legs could manage. I jumped off the bus at my stop and walked away without looking back. I hear no end of inverted fables where the moral of the story is to avoid being noticed in these situations. Never be the hero, never get involved, keep your head down and, where possible, walk away.

So the biggest headline from my return to Harbin is the story of one man’s workplace catastrophe. Other than that, I’ve been spending my time cleaning my apartment, catching up with friends, lesson planning and watching Tom Hanks films. Although I’ve already had a frustration cry at not being able to order water because I couldn’t understand the lady on the phone, it’s nice being back. I went with two of the new teachers out for a little feast last night, and having neglected my skills over the summer, quickly developed a case of chopstick-claw – hand cramp due to overclenching. The tudou piar – fire potatoes – was worth the pain.

With each rainfall, the temperature is dropping by a few degrees, and each night we’ve had intense thunder and fork lightning. It’s still much hotter than in the UK, and I’m waiting for autumn to come so I can turn off my fan and cover my upper arms.Although classes are starting next week, mine won’t begin for another 3 weeks, so I’ve got time on my hands. Suggestions on a postcard for what to do…

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2 thoughts on “Monopoly Deal

  1. I so agree with Sue about that poor man and the helpful advice he was given by people trying to get him off – take a taxi! Can’t help but worry about his future – how would he work now. How easy our lives are and how much moaning we do. Shall now try to stop whining which will be a great relief to my kids – esp Sue! Love Janet (step-granny-janny) x x x

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