china

Crossing the Street in Huadu, Guangzhou

“What could possibly be said about crossing the street?” you might have thought when you read the title of this post. “Perhaps it is what happened when he tried to cross the street.”

Make no mistake, and do not abandon interest, but this is about crossing the street. A guide, of sorts, to other unlucky (and sheltered) souls who arrive in Huadu expecting modern (and typical) infrastructure.

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I have lived in Huadu for two months, and I had not recognized their absence for one of them. Whose absence, you might ask? Why, crosswalks. One does not expect them on the quiet streets of a cul-de-sac or out-of-the-way wooded roads, but a bustling city?

There are certain expectations, ones that the ‘side streets’ of Huadu shatter. While the more commercial streets (notice I did not say busier) have crosswalks, once you leave that square inch of modern comfort, it is the jungle.

In hindsight, I feel quite the fool for my previous ‘civility’.

There would be a street. I would want to cross it. Cars would be coming and going, so what is one to do? Wait, of course! It was engraved in my psyche that when cars are speeding by, you wait for them to pass before stepping onto the street. Even if they’re driving on the lane across from you or still some ways away, you don’t begin crossing until the road is clear. Somewhere, a light would turn red, traffic would come to a stop, and pedestrians could cross.

But there are no lights! There is no stem to the traffic! And there is an unending flow. So, what is one to do? The answer is rather simple, so simple, in fact, that I cannot be sure if this post is entirely pointless, that this is how it is done everywhere in the world, even those cities and towns with crosswalks. Truly, I cannot remember.

You play a game of Frogger.

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Cars are incoming, but eventually something will impede traffic, giving you a small window to reach the middle of the street. Traffic will not slow or stop for you, of course, but if you do not walk in-front of a car you will safely reach the next lane.

You play the same game here. With cars flying past you on both sides, and I will never become comfortable with the wind slapping me in the face, you wait for an opportunity to dash across the second half of the street. One does not idle on one side hoping that traffic will cease all together or that it will slow enough that you can cross without a short wait in the middle. There is simply too much traffic for that and nothing to stop it aside from an accident.

Writing this, I am truly anxious that this is the norm around the world and I have simply forgotten. I simply cannot comprehend waiting for the street to clear anymore. Playing a game of Frogger seems far more convenient.

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