China has the largest population in the world. It consists of a little fewer than 1.5 billion people, which works out to be about 20% of the world's population. It is so big that the government instituted the infamous one-child policy on September of 1980, a few years after Mao's death. Now, over 33 years after the policy was put in place, China not only struggles with a huge population, but also with a gender imbalance that already began to prevent millions of men from forming a family.
Needless to say, the traffic is an absolute pain. Although only a small portion of the Chinese population own cars, the streets are perpetually busy. Jaywalking is the norm, but you should never cross the street before looking both ways a few times, because cars do not stop and wait for you to finish crossing. In fact, the streets of China are governed by the Law of the Big, with smaller vehicles giving way to bigger ones, leaving pedestrians with the only option of running across the street as soon as the opportunity strikes.
Although you would think biking would be easier than walking, I would beg to differ. Pedestrians refuse to move out of the way, and cars somehow end up in the bike lane and make it impossible to get anywhere. I went biking with a group of people a few days ago, and I almost died from fear. My anxiety was aggravated by a collision against a motorbike only a few meters from the starting place. The group I was with, however, was unaffected, and continued to rush me and Shirley (who is also a bounder) or threaten to leave us behind. We had no choice but to brave the cold and dangerous streets of Beijing.
Although I was already fearing for my life and freezing to death, I still had time to feel the exhaustion caused by the sudden stress I was putting on my body to keep going. The whole outing lasted from 1pm-8pm and consisted of about 5 hours of biking. Thankfully, those hours were broken apart by a few stops along the way.
One of the stops we made was to a place called Cat Coffee. The inside of the café was nice and clean and full of cats. Yup, that's right. Cats were casually laying around everywhere, walking on tables, and keeping costumers entertained. We got one vanilla and one chocolate milk tea to share, and finally took a break.
Our next stop was a few hu tongs away. We were unsure we could get there without a map, so we left Cat Coffee early to ensure our timely arrival. Of course, us having the luck that we have, we got there early and had about half an hour to kill. The building had broken windows and an overall creepy look that made my skin crawl. We walked along a deserted hu tong, bought some snacks, and headed back to our creepy destination. This destination I am referring to is a popular online game brought to life. Groups of friends are locked up in a room and given an hour to solve puzzles in order to get out.
I was pretty excited about the game at first, especially since I thought it was totally weird, but it was a huge disappointment. I had been expecting an adventure, like having to jump through lasers and such, but it was far from that. I was not much help since everyone was speaking Mandarin way to fast for me to understand anything. However, we (or they) were able to figure the passcode out, which meant we won! There was no prize, but we did get our photo taken, though I have no idea what they did with it. Oh, and in case you were wondering, the game cost about 50元, which is about $8.
We made it back home safely. The traffic died down a little, and Shirley and I became much more comfortable riding the bikes on the streets. At night, the bursts of fireworks and firecrackers made me jump up a little bit, but eventually, I got used to that as well. Overall, the day turned out to be fun, but extremely tiring. Walking up six flights of stairs to the apartment was also no fun since I was already pretty sore. Even today, a few days later, my arms and legs still hurt a little bit. I don't know if this is telling me that I should exercise more (probably) or that I should not ride a bike for hours again (definitely).