In fact, it has already started. People have started travelling home for the Chinese New Year. Monday morning wasn’t like any other weekday I’ve seen since arriving. There was hardly any traffic on the roads. It’s more like a Sunday afternoon. Recently I’ve noticed a lot more inter-city buses making early morning and late night departures. A few days ago I saw five coaches parked down the street on the sidewalk, loading passengers. Whenever I ride the subway I see people, luggage in hand, on their way to the train station.
I’ve been trying to find out exactly how many people travel during this period, but it’s rather difficult to pin down reliable numbers. I think it’s safe to say that in the four to five day travel period around the beginning of the New Year holiday, more than 100 million people will travel home. I’m sure you’ve heard it described as the largest migration in human history. In China they do it every year at the beginning of the New Year holiday, and then again a week later. The total number of people travelling is probably higher, but it’s spread out over several weeks as students and others who have longer holidays go home earlier, and return later.
For my part, I’ll be staying away from the trains during the holiday. I was thinking about taking a trip in the middle of the holiday, in the eye of the hurricane so to speak, when everyone is at home rather than on the trains. Haven’t yet decided if I’ll do that. I do think it would be interesting to experience the greatest migration in human history firsthand, but I think the novelty of that would wear off pretty fast. Beside, the whole thing probably isn’t much fun for those who have to do it, it’s more of a headache.
In China there are plenty of hazards to trip up the unsuspecting pedestrian. Things that if you encountered them at home, would be flagged with plenty of orange tape and maybe even a fence. For example, uneven pavement, potholes, missing paving stones, and staircases with one or more steps not the same height as all the others. Back home liability lawyers would drool. In China, if you trip over the sidewalk, it’s because you didn’t watch where you were going.
中国人行道上有很多危险。 在加拿大遇到这些危险的话旁边准有橙色线或者篱笆。比如说不平的人行道，坑洼，楼梯有一两个梯级跟其它的不也一样的高度。在加拿大都是不 可以的，在中国没问题。你绊倒的话就是你自己的事。
Let me describe it this way. People sometimes lay out goods they’re selling on blankets on the sidewalk. Nobody accidentally steps on them, except my father. It drove him nuts because he’d be walking down the sidewalk and suddenly someone would yell at him for stepping on their merchandise. He kept saying they shouldn’t put things in the middle of the sidewalk. That’s just not the way it works around here. If someone puts something (merchandise, a car, a pothole) in the middle of the sidewalk, it’s your job to avoid running into it.
有时候我看见人在人行道卖 东西。他们把东西放在地面。没有任何人踩在商品上，除了我父亲以外。这件事让他疯了。他正好在人行道走路忽然某人说他因为我父亲踩了在商 品上。我父亲觉得不需要在人行道上卖东西。在中国不是这样。如果某人把东西（商品，汽车）放在人行道中间，是你的事。
That’s all well and good. People seem to get by just fine here and I’ve never seen anyone trip. Then there’s this. I’m not sure if the sewer access or the staircase came first. Whatever the explanation, this is just cruel. This is a staircase near the Suzhou St. subway station. Easily 10,000 people climb this staircase every day, yet nobody seems to fall into the hole. If you’re coming down the stairs you can’t even see that there’s a problem until you get there! Bonus points because the top and bottom stairs aren’t the same height as the rest.
好的，那就行，没问题。我 没看过人搬到。不过这个不行。我不知道楼梯或者检修空是先制作的，不过这很残忍的。这楼梯在苏州街地铁站旁边，准每天一万多人都爬楼梯， 没有人摔倒了。从上面过来到楼梯前不会知道有危险。加分因为最上下面梯级的高度跟其它的都不一样。
Well, sort of. 说不定！
I’ve now learned over 1,300 Chinese characters. In fact, that’s nothing, but what is something is that I can now write full sentences in Chinese. I couldn’t do that when I arrived in China back in September. The pieces are starting to fall together now. I’m connecting the characters I’ve learned to the spoken vocabulary I already know, and adding to my spoken vocabulary using characters I previously recognized but didn’t know how to say. It’s a good feeling.
我已经学了1，300个字。其实，你们都 知道我认识的字太少。不过我现在会写中文的句话。我刚来中国的时候不会。现在我开始知道我认识的字跟我会说的话有什么关系。我词汇越来越 多。我很高兴。
The book in the picture, Remembering Simplified Hanzi I, contains 1,500 characters. I’ve been studying it slowly for almost a year. The question now is, can I learn the remaining 180 characters before I leave for India on February 12? Also, this book was published in 2008. Someone please tell me when book II will be published. I’m ready for it!
我学汉子的书叫“记得简体 字1” （我自己翻译，不是中文书）。里面有1，500个字。我不到一年学 了。我2月12号要飞去印度德里。到时候我能不能弄这本书学完了？还有一个问题：这本书是2008年出版的，第二个书什么时候会出来呢？我正在等它！
天天在我住工作的楼是这 样。我不是在仓库住的。这栋楼没有航运业需要 的东西。没有货物电梯什么的。最不要的问题是楼的电梯。
This is the daily scene outside the front door of the building where I live and work. No, I don’t live in a computer warehouse. There is no infrastructure here to support a distribution centre. No freight elevators, no loading dock, nothing. The main problem with this scenario is the elevators.
这22层栋楼只有两部电梯。这两部不过，员工太多。好多次我需要等十分钟上电梯。每天电梯有几个高峰时 间。那会儿我不敢上电梯。我在十二层住工作。如果我想出去，我先看这两电梯在哪层，正在上或者下。如果我觉得需要五分钟以上等电梯我就不 等下楼梯。其实要是电梯快过来，可能我不能上因为里面多么电脑什么的。
The number of elevators in this 22-storey building is not even sufficient to support the number of people who work here. It’s not unusual to have to wait ten minutes to get on an elevator. There are several elevator “rush hours” per day and I do my best to avoid them. When I’m coming down from the twelfth floor, I check the location and direction of the elevators, and if they’re more than five minutes away, I go down the stairs. Even if the elevator does come soon, I might not be able to get on because it might already be loaded with a pallet of photocopiers.
这些员工，从外面的汽车自 行车弄电脑上楼很聪明。他们都知道怎么上电梯。他们不管有没有人们已经等了十多分钟上电梯，他们就上。没有人批评他们。我在北京学过怎么 上公共车，电梯，地铁，不过我没有那些员工厉害。
The guys who run the dollies piled with computers, from the waiting bicycles and trucks, up and down the elevators to the offices, are good at their jobs. They know how to force their way onto an elevator in front of a dozen people who have been waiting ten minutes to get on. Yet nobody complains. I’ve learned to force my way onto trains, buses and elevators, but I could still learn a lot from these guys.
So, if your new computer fell off a truck (or a bicycle) somewhere, it might have happened here.