The first full day we were here, we had to start the morning by getting a Medical (see previous post). This meant an hour’s taxi ride across to the other side of the City. This might sound straight forward, but the taxi drivers here are all on suicide missions – or so it appears to me. They frequently ride the lanes until the last minute, cut in without warning, blast on the horn at every red light, brake without warning and speed like a bat out of hell. There are no seat belts in the back because they all cover the seats with an all-in-one cloth so you cannot get to slot it in. They do not speak a word of English, nor understand a single word or read anything in English. If you want to go somewhere you have to get the address written down in Chinese. I have a little notebook with all my regular addresses written in Chinese now. Also, EVERYONE seems to have right of way, the green man to walk is purely for entertainment and traffic lights appear to be optional. There are hundreds of bicycles, scooters and motorbikes on top of all the taxis so you have to have eyes everywhere all the time. It amazes me that I do not see accidents at every corner.
The plus side is that getting around in a taxi is incredibly cheap. Our hour’s journey across town was less than £10/$15. I have change out of £10 for my 2 trips to and from the office each day (approx 45 mins each way) and there are hundreds of taxi’s around. Except when it is raining, then they all disappear to no-mans land and it is almost impossible to flag one down. It took me 45 minutes outside of my office to flag one down last week, and this is right in the heart of Shanghai! I can completely understand why most Western companies forbid their ex-pats from driving here.
Sanity has arrived and his name is Fu. He is our lovely regular driver and we can now travel in style in our Buick minivan. He does not speak very much English but is always smiling and the kids make him laugh. He seems to know every address we have wanted to go to without a navigation system or map. He plays English music on the stereo and it is fabulous to text him when we are ready to go somewhere and there he is, like magic! He is also less mad than a taxi driver which means I can actually work on my commute, rather than cling to the seat fighting a near death experience!!
Update: May 12th. Owen has now bought a scooter which allows him some more freedom without always having to rely on Fu. The kids love it because he can occasionally take them to the bus stop in our compound for school.
On Friday, Owen decided he would explore a little further afield, but still well within the manufacturers range for the battery. Well, I get a panic call at 2pm because the battery has died, Owen is 10km from home and cannot make Fu understand where he is to be picked up. I have to ask my colleague who speaks excellent English to explain the situation (and Owen’s location) to Fu who can then find him. Oh, the money I would have paid to see the scooter in the minivan!! Both side doors open with wheels hanging out and Owen hanging on for dear life. The image in my head is enough to make me laugh out loud. 🙂
I think it will take a few more days before Owen can laugh about it. Right now, he is hopping mad with the seller as he had not even done half of the recommended range……..