Transportation [Life in GZ, Ed. 16]

Ruikang Road in Guangzhou

It’s nice being able to come up with one overarching theme for the scattered, seemingly unrelated notes on events I come across in my life in Guangzhou. Of course, this means that some will be left out—but inevitably for another edition.


1 — Airport Didi
In the more than half a year away from home and all the times I’ve traveled in and out of China, I’ve never had to take taxis or the metro to get to and from the airport. It tends to go something like this:

  • Anywhere from months to literally two nights ahead of time, I decide that I want/need to escape Guangzhou.
  • I tell my mom. Note: My parents are likely the chillest Chinese parents ever; hence, “to ask” or “to suggest” is more like “to declare.”
  • As a “gold member,” she immediately goes on Expedia to look for flights.
  • Within hours, I receive a confirmation that my wish to escape has been fulfilled.
  • Some time later, my aunt messages me, asking about my flight details. Note the lack of a step in my personally telling anyone else, and yet my aunt inevitably will find out from my parents.
  • The day of said flight, my cousin comes to pick me up to drive me to the airport. It’s assumed that when I return, he will be there.

So when my high school friend and boyfriend came, I had the least idea of how to deal with the transportation. When Mehdi left was the first time I took a taxi to and from the airport, and on the way back, I had a chance to chat with my male driver (have yet to see a female driver).

“We actually just passed by my apartment. It’s about 700 yuan a month,” he told me.

The realization of how bizarre (and potentially dangerous) it could’ve seemed to conveniently drive past his house aside, he shocked me with that 700, excluding utilities.

700 yuan is about $108 USD. Compare that to mine at literally $700 USD, and you can’t help but wonder at how much different his apartment could possibly be. #CHINA

2 — Ruikang Road
I recently attended a talk on how to write short stories on the south campus of Sun Yat-sen University.

Talk at Sun Yat-sen University

Having arrived over an hour early, I was hoping to chill inside a library and read in the meantime. It was pouring outside, but I didn’t let that stop me from walking in my black high-heel suede boots throughout the campus. Despite my soaking wet shoes, I felt such a strong nostalgia for college life. Even though BU doesn’t have a traditional campus like SYSU, I started imagining my life as a student again. I glanced at every student who walked by me, trying to imagine what they studied, whether they were locals or foreigners, whether they were younger than me or older. I saw boys wearing flip flops and shorts, which made me think they must wear flip flops every time it rains to avoid ruining their other shoes or having to buy rain boots.

After having some trouble finding the library with the map on my phone, I finally made my way inside, only to see that I needed a student ID to get in. When I was told no guests were allowed, I walked back down the steps of the library, feeling utterly defeated for having walked so far in the rain, only to be denied even entry. I then realized that I had never visited the library during the four months I was at Fudan University in Shanghai—because I would always get up early before classes to go study in random classrooms, along with other Chinese students until professors walked in to start class.

So while I briefly considered finding a suitable classroom before this talk, I decided to just leave campus and explore what was around. I hadn’t realized that part of the reason that I felt a happy nostalgia while on campus was because of the marked silence. As soon as I walked out of the campus gates, honking cars and trucks, angry drivers, slow pedestrians all bombarded my senses. I walked down what I later found out was Ruikang Road. My advice for everyone: AVOID.

I don’t know why I walked in as deep as I did, because even though I just wanted to find a place to sit down, I could’ve just settled for a convenience store (which I ended up doing), but I just kept walking past shop after shop of people selling fabric and other materials for making clothes. Those and the stands selling God-knows-how-old-diarreah-inducing hot dogs that permeated my sense of smell, while the tons of motorcycles and trucks carrying parcels whizzed past me, seriously testing both my patience and reflexes.

It was a game of how well you could avoid puddles and cracks, while avoiding being hit by a vehicle.

3 — How to Drag
On the bus back from a night of Drag Bingo (host of the game dressed up as drag, not us), I saw on the TV screen (usually two per bus) something incredibly strange and coincidental. Two young Chinese men—one in a wig and wearing a pink strapless dress, the other in a black and gold sweater over a white dress shirt—taught viewers how to dress in drag, complete with curling your wig and putting on make-up.

It surprised me, because I think foreigners have this impression that drag just isn’t accepted among locals in a country like China. Late at night seated in the back of this quiet bus, I noticed other riders watching with curiosity. Although I know there’s an incredibly popular transgender talk show host in China, a show such as this one played on the GZTV channel is still something I can’t imagine being played on public buses in the U.S.


⇒ Wet Markets & Phone Shops
Renter, Love & Care
Camera, Coffee, Clarity
The Catch-Up
⇒ Holidaze
⇒ Passing By
⇒ The Familiar
⇒ Misfortune, Pt. 1
⇒ Misfortune, Pt. 2
⇒ Social Life
⇒ The Chinese