Taking a shower

After several days of beautiful Southern California weather, it started raining hard and the flooding began. The streets filled with water, as did the sidewalks, dirt alley ways (through which I need to walk to get to the main street) and the cracked and potted sidewalks lining the street. Everything was filled with water and old men stood at the entrance of their shops waiting for the deluge to subside, just itching to start sweeping.

Sweeping?? Why sweep? Well, after it rains the streets and parking lots are always flooded. There is not a very good drainage system in Beijing, seeing as in order for gutters and drains to work, the water must first be able to reach them – and since many of the roads and “flat” ground is anything but, the water just sits in pools…everywhere, and stagnates. Solution? No 10 million dollar repaving projects necessary, thank you very much. All that is needed are about 10 million brooms made of grass and some old men. All over the city, in near unison, they start sweeping the water into the nearest drain – wherever that may be. Pure genius, no?

But the sweeping, in all its efficient and ingenious glory, had not yet commenced and so there I was, standing in a puddle trying to get a taxi. Traffic was heavy. Buses (with their brakes nice and wet, providing for pleasantly ear-shattering friction when they are applied) screetched by and cars honked maniacally at each standstill as though someone up front would hear them and say, “oh, someone is frustrated and unhappy behind me. I should really make a conscious effort to move quicker, as I am purposely going slow so as to keep from arriving home in a timely manner.” I scanned the solid line of passing cars through the rain for a taxi, but none were available. Each taxi had a lucky (warm and dry) man or woman happily inside, oblivious to the desperation that was building up in me…I was almost late for work. I walked back and forth scouring the cars. I walked up the block to the bus stop then to the university. Then across the street. Then back down the street. There wasn’t a taxi to be hailed.

What was that?? In the distance! A taxi with his available light on!

I ran full speed up to him and when I arrived, I noticed that someone was already in it. He just hadn’t turned off his light yet.

I continued to wait until miraculously, a taxi pulled up in front of me and a man got out. I quickly hopped in and showed the taxi driver the address.

“I can’t,” he said (in Chinese). He pointed to his windshield wipers – “They don’t work.”

“Plllleeeeeasssse!!!” I begged. I showed him the directions again. I looked around and said the Chinese words for “No taxi anywhere. I here 30 minutes!” (give me a break, it was in Chinese).

He looked torn. Money vs. Safety (and perhaps our lives). It was raining hard. I was begging.

“Ok le,” and we were off. We both squinted through the rain drenched windshield. Once we got over 20mph we couldn’t really see anything. He pulled over and swathed a rag over the glass. It didn’t help. We basically just drove really really slow but I eventually arrived to my class – 30 minutes late.

When it came time to pay, I handed over a 20 yuan note and when he went to give me my change, I said “yours” and went to get out. He insisted, showing me the money. Was I just going to leave with out it??! I pointed at him, then to my pocket and said “thank you.” I figured that 6 yuan (70 cents US) was the least I could give for him risking his life to get me to work.

So what else is new? Not much. I’ve just been livin’ la vida loca and keepin’ it real, you know? I have a busy schedule coming up these next few weeks and will be teaching at a University nearly every day in addition to evening classes. I met a girl on the subway the other day and me, my friends, her and her friends will get some dinner tomorrow evening. My GMAT book also arrived from Amazon.com yesterday so I’ve been studying all day from that. My first practice test through I scored a 600 (max is 800 and the avg. is 530), so I think it will be pretty easy to achieve my goal of 790 for the actual test. I’ll study for three months and take it here in Beijing before I continue on so that I can just focus on working for a few years when I get back and then hop right into an MBA program. I don’t think the GMAT is really going to be that hard. The math is really simple and the English parts are just arguing and reasoning. I say that now. We’ll see how I do on the real thing (I’ll settle for a 780).

It dawned on me today how difficult it is to get napkins in a Chinese food restaurant. Why is that? I have no idea. Seeing as I don’t know the word for “napkin” (although I should really learn it), it’s always quite an ordeal to get one of the damn things. And when you finally do get one, they dole them out like sheets of gold. It’s incredible.

Hmm…I just thought you guys should know that. Just in case… You need napkins when you come to China.

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