Subway accident 9-28-11

September 28, 2011

Here the sky is usually hazy, but last weekend a strong wind blew all the haze out, and we had beautiful clear blue skies. The weather has been lovely, too, in the 70’s and dry. I don’t know where to start to tell you about what our life is like here. Every little thing is so different from the life we knew. Instead of a big house on the ground, we have a small apartment very high up. Instead of a large yard with apple trees, we have a gorgeous view of the Shanghai skyline. The buildings here are skyscrapers built with a space age theme. Many of them look like something out of science fiction, but huge. Instead of taking my car everywhere I want to go, I take the subway or the taxi.

Instead of going to the grocery store and buying many bags of groceries, I buy only a few items from the E Mart, because it is more expensive than other options. In the large store, there are very interesting things in the meat department. There are live snakes, frogs, and fish. When you see a frog, think “dinner!” Parts of animals we don’t eat are there, like feet and fat, and squirrels, and tendons. I buy only a few items at a time, because I need to carry it all back to my apartment, which is next door. I usually only buy meat there, and milk and yogurt. I try to avoid things like intestines, snakes, and squirrels!

Most items are much cheaper to buy from the tiny little shops on the street. I didn’t dare go there much before last week because I was afraid to have to talk to people with my halting Chinese. Now, though, I buy everything I can there. Two weeks ago I needed a new light bulb. I went to the EMart and two electronics stores. They didn’t have it. The tiny little shop across the street had it, though. Another tiny little shop had a wok, silverware, a mop, a squeegee, an electric power strip, etc. Very close, down another street, is a man who sewed a seam on my blouses to make them smaller because I bought them for $3.00 each without trying them on at a different shop. He also irons clothes very cheap.

At a different shop I bought a pair of sandals that actually fit my wide feet. A few days later, when the sole came off the sandals, I found a shop that would cut a new sole and put it on the sandals. When the Apple store wanted $35.00 (converted from yuan) for a little plastic screen cover for my iphone, I found a place where they would cut one custom for me for half the price.

Dad bought me an iphone, which I coveted for its great aps: a map that shows where you are and where you want to go, a taxi driver app that shows the taxi driver in characters the address of the place you want to go, a compass, a translation app that will even take a picture of characters and translate them. It cost about $800.00. I think that is way more than iphones cost in the U.S. but it helps me get around a city where I can’t read anything.
Yesterday there was a subway crash on line 10, the train we take every day. The crash occurred on the line between my stop and the very next stop. In the afternoon I heard multiple sirens wailing concurrently for half an hour before I stopped working to see what had happened. I looked right outside my window where I had a birds eye view from the 18th floor right above the commotion. There were lots of fire trucks, police, ambulances, and buses. I assumed it was a traffic accident, but I couldn’t see any mangled cars. It was strange. I counted 25 ambulances, which would sit still for a while in a line, then drive off and more would come. Buses would be loaded up and then drive off. There were at least 70 police keeping all the crowds at bay. I went downstairs to see what happened, and a man told me it was the train. Later I heard that one train rear ended another train (10 or so cars each). The reports are not all consistent. My friend told me It happened at 2:00 p.m., but no one came to rescue them until 3:00.She said that the cell phones, which normally work in the subway here, didn’t work. The emergency pull didn’t work, either. People on the crashed train were able to post photos on twitter, however. Very strange.

Jeff heard yesterday that the driver was killed. Today he read that the switching control system had a glitch in July which sent a train to the wrong place, but was supposed to be fixed. Yesterday, though, it broke and they were using manual controls. The driver of the first train was told to stop. He stayed stopped for 40 minutes. The people on the train were concerned that they would be rear ended, because the trains usually come every five minutes. Reports say they pounded on the driver’s door. Then another train hit them. Reports say 290 people were injured, some seriously. 95 people are still in the hospital today. The line 10 train was not open today. In April a high speed train was stalled and hit from behind. That accident killed about 40 people. A switching system was at fault in that accident also.

Ambulances at Laoximen in Shanghai after the Subway Crash

For good news, our new ayi (maid) started working for us today. She will come every morning for three hours. Maybe I will be able to study Mandarin more diligently if I’m not doing dishes by hand in water that was boiled just to be safe. Today I also had a tutor this morning. We mostly talked about how to say things like “please wash the windows,” and “mop the floor.” This afternoon I went with a neighbor to the fabric market to see the place where a person can get anything made from any kind of cloth. The silks were beautiful. I didn’t get anything, but I think I will get something made. I can pick a dress style and have it made a little longer, with a bit of a sleeve. Right now I’m waiting for the water delivery man to bring two large bottles of water for our water machine. That’s how we get clean water to drink. A man on a bicycle laden with many bottles labors up the street bringing water to people. That’s a hard job. He always shows up with a smile on his face.

I guess I better go cook dinner. We are having broccoli beef. I finally got serious about cooking after I bought a wok and a pressure cooker. I can even cook cake in my pressure cooker, although I haven’t done it yet. I did make some carrot pudding. It is like carrot cake without the eggs, and with grated potato. It’s gooier and yummy with ice cream or cream. Note from after dinner: My broccoli beef turned out great! I didn’t like it much when I made it in the U.S. I think I have better ingredients here. The beef was awesome and tender. It was a bit expensive (about $6.00 for a small steak). Maybe I will learn how to cook better Chinese food now that I am in China!