Wednesday, September 17, 2014

adventures in transportation

Meet our handsome new chauffier:

His name is David and I kind of have a crush on him.

Yep, Dave got a Chinese driver's license.

When we first arrived here there was a guy from Dave's office who drove us where we needed to go.  The plan was for him to do that for a short while until Dave and I both took the driving test and got our own licenses.  People in our branch looked at us a little funny when they heard that little plan because there's only one other person I know who drives here.  The streets are a little bit crazy and everyone seems to have the right-of-way.  But still, getting driver's licenses seemed pretty practical for us.  Drivers are expensive and with a family of seven we couldn't all fit in one car with a driver anyway.  There is an office car we can borrow while we're here so it all just made sense.

We both needed to study for the test and figure out how in the world to maneuver through the traffic here.  But in researching further, we found that you can only get a driving license depending on what type of entry and exit visa you have.  At first, after doing some research, we thought maybe Dave wouldn't be able to get one after all and I would be the driver (because he travels here enough, he has a different visa than the rest of us).  But then the office figured out that for some reason, Dave's type of visa allows a temporary driving license without taking the test.  He just had to sit through an hour video with no sound and take a long list of health tests and voila, he can drive.  He will have to renew it in a couple months, but it was pretty easy peasy.

I, on the other hand, have to go through the whole shebang to get mine.

A couple of Dave's office helpers took me on the long-ish drive to the Chines equivalent of the DMV for some preliminary stuff.

I was so glad they knew what they were doing because there wasn't a lick of English going on anywhere.
We went through all different stations starting with taking photos which everyone took turns posing for with a blue jacket they passed from one to another.  (See it on Dave up above?)  For some reason they didn't have me wear that.  A lot of rhymes and reasons remain mysteries for me around here.  I'm sure it seems that way when people visit the States too.  Just different.

The part that I was most amazed at was the medical examination.  Here we are entering that area below:

See this little form below and all those rectangle boxes on the bottom?  That was after the first one got it's red stamp of approval (in red).  All those boxes had to be filled with various "examination" check-offs.

Way more things to check here than in the states.  I wish I had a picture of each one, but here's the hearing booth where you had to sit and put on headphones and point to which ear was hearing the super muted traffic noises:

This next one is the room where I had to go lay down on a little bed (behind the screen) and let them put cuffs on my arm and ankle to figure out my heart rate:
The other stations checked these things:
--blood pressure
--whether or not you are color blind
--a little digital mechanical thing checked how strong your grip was
--they checked to see if you could do a squat
--thorough vision check where you had to hold a spoon up to one eye and then another
--they checked my palms...not sure what they were looking for.

But in the end I passed all that, and now apparently I'm ready to go take the test.

Here are a few of the questions they sent me to study.  See if you can understand them because I sure can't!  Not sure the Chinese-to-English translation worked very well.

I have no idea how I will pass a test like that, but I am going to try because I want to be able to get from point A to point B in a more effective way.

For now I take taxis and the metro (or just walk if it's close).  Here's a picture of my first taxi ride all by myself.

I was a little nervous not because I didn't feel safe (we all feel so safe here).  But in general, Chinese taxi drivers do not speak an ounce of English so I was nervous to just hand him an address:
...and not be able to explain anything should that taxi driver get confused as to where to go or need a little clarity.

But so far so good.

I'm fascinated that they can understand these beautiful symbols I hold out to them and they nod.

I keep trying to learn new phrases to explain things and get around.  I write them all down in my phone phonetically and get all confident that I'll be able to use them next time.  But then next time comes around and I can't remember if "zh" makes a "dg" sound or a "za" sound or a "xt" sound for that matter.

And then I look at some of the kids around here like a little classmate of Lucy's I met in the parent pickup line the other day who can speak four languages.  She is SEVEN for crying out loud.  We need to pick up our game.

Especially in the taxi market.

There's also the metro which is simple and easy.

We have our local "green line" pretty well figured out.
Just hard to bring groceries home on.

So luckily we have some great friends who have brought us where we need to go, as well as this guy who can get us around anywhere when he's around.

We have this great little Garmin that Kevin set up for us.  

It is extremely helpful to get around because although Dave can get around fine with his Chinese, he can't read Chinese.

Which poses a problem with street signs.  Don't let that first picture in this post fool you, the majority of the local street signs are only written in Chinese.

We had a really interesting experience trying to find a gymnastics place a new friend had told us about that Claire was dying to try.  She explained that you just drive down this alleyway with a green umbrella over a fruit stand near the main road, drive through fruit stands and little walking markets and take a right into a little place with an orange sign after you honk at the guard to open the gate.  I thought, "ok, how hard can that be?"

But it was hilarious when we finally found the little alleyway we were supposed to turn down (talking it through en route on the phone with this new friend)...it was like a sidewalk crammed with people and trucks and bikes.  I couldn't believe where we were driving!

Pictures can't do it justice but there were people and toddlers and cars everywhere honking and yelling and shopping.

It is obvious that we don't understand the parking rules or signs very well since we have been rewarded by a couple parking tickets already.

I'm off to study for my test.  Not sure if I really dare to even try to pass it or not!  Hope I can handle this!!

P.S. Thank you so much for all the kind emails that have filled up my in-box in the last few days.  Thanks for the requests for clarification as well as the interesting things pointed out and love and encouragement.  I wish I could write back to everyone but please know how much I appreciate the support. 

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