I seem to be living in Tongzhou now. It’s still Beijing, just about, and the house we’re sharing with V’s family is simply amazing. There’s room for the five of us (plus the dog) to all have our own space – in fact there’s enough room for a full sized ping-pong table on our floor and it doesn’t even get in our way.
The only problem, and it’s a fairly sizable one, is transport. It takes me a good hour-and-a-half to get anywhere, and this pretty much means I’m leaving for work every day (including weekends) at 7.30 and not getting home until 7.30pm. So far it’s not a great schedule, and something is almost certainly going to have to be done. What that ‘something’ is isn’t clear right now, but it should be quite soon.
I’m avoiding the worst of the rush hour commute by taking the express bus into the centre and cycling to my workplace. This isn’t really any quicker than taking the subway, but as that involves the horrific rush-hour interchange between line 1 and the Batong line anything is better. On Saturdays I can’t avoid it. The sheer number of people there is beyond anything imaginable in Europe. Not only do guards push people onto the train until it’s at bursting point, but at the last two stops before the interchange the train is so full that literally nobody at the station can get on. When the train stops everyone must go up the stairs, around a series of metal fences (presumably designed to avoid a stampede), and down onto another platform where line 1 trains start. At rush hour the entire area is so full of people that it takes 20 minutes to get from the first platform to the second. Why they don’t just have one line instead of two is a pretty good question, but nobody seems to know the answer.
On Saturday things aren’t quite so bad, so there was a little space on my line 1 train as it was about to depart. At the last minute, as they were closing, the doors were jammed open by an average-looking man in a blue t-shirt. He was then pushed onto the train by a woman (presumably his wife or girlfriend) who shouted the rudest words in the Chinese language at him. His reaction to this was completely unexpected – he punched her hard in the face. Then she shouted something else and gave him a scissor-kick in the ribs. This wasn’t a playfight – they were hitting each-other hard enough to easily break bones. This continued for an apparent eternity, probably only around 30 seconds, in which they managed to get a good five or six hard blows in. A few people tried to intervene, but nobody was brave enough to get between them and get injured themself.
The fight ended when one of the woman’s kicks pushed the man off the train, whereupon he fell onto the platform. The door-closing noise went off again, and the woman looked around, first relieved, then in a panic, and jumped onto the platform just as the doors shut, leaving her bag and glasses behind her. A teenage girl in the compartment was crying by this point, but everyone else stood and sat in silence for the next minute or so.
I’m sure there’s some interesting point I can make about this, but I can’t think what it could be.
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