Donnerstag, 8. Dezember 2011

8 Beijing. The Beijing police


My first impression of the Beijing police I got from the border police at the aerport´s passport control. As I wrote in another post, I could use the check point "For Chinese only." That in a communist country. Not possible, did not fit into my world view. The official was quick, like so many in China, correct and not unfriendly. This positive impression gave me some courage for the coming period. (Note: Some photos were taken with a contaminated photo lens)

Since my visa was valid for only two months, I had to go to a public agency to make extend it for one further month. The agency is not so far from the center in a large building located with just such a lobby. After going up some stairs, I saw the waiting area where one could sit down comfortably. Sitting behind the information point a young policewoman provided in fluent English informations on the conditions. First filling out a form with a linked passport photo, second the registration certificate from the local police.
But now came the crucial point: presentation of a bank certificate of any Chinese bank account.
I had to prove, that I had for each day of the visa extension at least 100 $ on my bank account. 
So, in my case about 3.000 $. (2.200 €)
The evidence of a German bank account is not accepted.
The state of China doesn´t want foreigners coming without sufficient funds into the country in order to avoid financial support.
So I looked for a Chinese bank, which exist in abundance and opened on Sunday afternoon my chinese bank account. By the way, the banks are open every day as well as supermarkets. One is also working on building sites. Office firms are closed Saturday and Sunday.
After waiting a few minutes my number was called up and a friendly, young bank clerk ask me for my wish. The passport must be shown him, because without it nothing would happen. After a little procedure I should choose immediately a six-digit code number for my bank card. I gave this one in a small terminal and after a few minutes later I held very proud my blue Chinese bank card in my hands. The first step was done quickly.
Now it was only possible in the following days to get the equivalent in yuan per 500 €/day from the cash machine with my German bank card, choosing the German language. After that I went with the wad of cash immediately to the bank for the deposit. After a few days the sum demanded was reached and the certificate in my hands.
All bank employees I met made a good impression to me. As specially selected.
Back to the agency, the young officerwoman in an elegant dark blue uniform was not only pleasant to look at her, but also able to speak good English, checking my documents.
After waiting 4 days I got my extended visa. As I recall the price of the extension was 17 €.
Shortly before my departure I changed my Yuans in € cash and took it to Germany. Meanwhile, I had better to leave it there on my account.
When I returned from the first passage to the visa agency in my apartment, I realized that something was wrong. But what? I looked around, but everything was fine. I refelected a moment. Then a glance to the place where ever day my new camera Panasonic TZ 10  and Nokia phone were. I could see there was nothing. The place was empty.
I got a real fright and ran into my bedroom to the wardrobe, where my identity card, 180 € and about 90 yuan were stored. The Chinese money disappeared, the euro still there (not a good sign for the future) as my identity card. (A Chinese can not exchange euros to the bank in the local currency.)
So, a thief had entered the apartment. But how? Not possible. The door was locked. However, the lock was not changed when moving in.
There was only one possibility. By sliding through the open left kitchen window. Going over 25 m depth (12th floor). Diagonally crossing, accessible only with a very large step from the floor hallway window. Climbing over there, I immediately rejected this idea. No, not even a Chinese thief could not be so life tired, I was told by my German, naive mind.
Again I watched from the hallway window this "route". No, just not possible.
A day later I was with a Chinese at the nearest local police station. The policeman was friendly and ask all the necessary data. Then waiting for three police men for securing evidences. They came back after an hour from a mission. Young men in dark blue, thin sweaters bearing the words "Police" in small letters.
I could come along with her car to my apartment. As we entered it, one of the policemen asked if the kitchen window had been open. "Yes," I said. "There he is through," was his quick reply. My sad eyes were very large. "There he is through," he had just said. Since I was first realizing that I was living in another world. Not because of the theft, there are also enough here, but that one man had such a courage to risk his life for a little money.
And it went through my mind now that there are many construction workers in Beijing who do their work every day at high altitudes. As a foreigner, you are being observed. I had paid my dues, learned again a lot in my life. Unfortunately, it remained a feeling of insecurity.
In fact, the police dusted the suspicious areas for taking fingerprints. As the result the fingerprints of the thief were both on the floor window, the kitchen window frame, where he had held himself over the abyss and on my identity card. My fingerprints were taken too for reference. Nevertheless, we took everything not quite as tragic, although it was annoying.
This was my exciting encounter with the Beijing police, who  had gladly helped me. I thanked them for their efforts. One gave me his hand before leaving.
My experience is again and again after several years living in various countries around the world: be friendly and correct in your behavior - and the other side will have the same behavior to you. No matter where you are.
The police said that several thefts were happening in the neighborhood. As they left, it was almost midnight.

Mittwoch, 7. Dezember 2011

7 Beijing. Visiting a satellite city

Beijing is not hilly, but is situated like on a plate. If you look from the corresponding point of view to the north, the mountain ridges are clearly visible, which extend to southern Mongolia. When I was once in Beijing, certainly not the last time, so it was natural for me to visit a neighboring satellite city. These are distributed concentrically around the capital. The closest to me is located right in the north and is connected by underground U5. Its final staion is Tiantongyuan North. Starting from my home I walked there with detours.
One last look out of the window, where a U5 goes straight towards the town, taking my backpack and going along the road for new discoveries in an exciting world.
First, along the street canyons, where the Chinese life pulsates.
The two photos above, this is China, modernity (Banking) and superlatives in addition to a traditional vehicle of transportation.
I crossed the northern part of the Olympic Park. In May, the most beautiful time of spring, I was happy there in order to sit under shady trees on a bench. In the hands  a Chinese textbook. On the street next to the park I saw a truck passing slowly with a very practical device, used for irrigation of street trees. The device is a rotor, that atomized water over the trees.
One day I was sitting on a park bench again and opened my book. Sure, it falls on you as a foreigner. Passing Chinese might be slightly irritated at the thought that the foreigners there just is reading a "Chinese" book.
So sat down on my bench an elderly man in order to converse with me. However, my Chinese was unfortunately only at the beginning and the mans English close to zero. It is simply a misconception to think that you can well communicate with English in Beijing. Even young people usually speak this language only in fragments. The new generation, more and more children of the middle class, is systematically promoted to learn English already in young years.
A few minutes later passed by, I must say, a pretty, young Chinese girl, looked at my book and began spontaneously a nice talk in relativly good English. It quickly became apparent that she was walking a lttle bit through the Olympic park for relaxing. After she had to go back at a nearby hospital where she worked as freshly baked medical doctor. I was told her studies at university lasted seven years. In the next few days, she wanted to start her first job in another city. She even helped me with the correct pronunciation of some Chinese words. I still remember well this pretty and clever Chinese woman. 
The Chinese hospitals have regular medical departments, as in Europe. But also an area that offers especially the traditional areas of Chinese medicine such as acupuncture.

Soon I passed a construction site. What is being built there, I don´t know. Maybe a building for sporting events or a convention hall. With the teleobjectiv I managed to get a detailed shot. It shows construction workers who wear a helmet and all are equipped with fairly new lifelines. This actually contradicts the assertions which can be seen from the German media about working conditions. These  construction workers live in air-conditioned living containers, as we find them also on European construction sites.

After seeing a small part of the satellite city, I went along a canal to the next suburb. It was very hot and the low-water channel seemed to be dirty. It smelled sometimes unpleasant. After a short rest I reached the first residential buildings.
In the photo above behind the massive high-voltage power lines are construction sites for new buildings. One of the most familiar images in and around Beijing. There is a huge demand for new housing by the arriving people. China's is a billion people, nearly 1.4 billion. Unimaginable for us and they also have the right to develop, to live better and better - as we do.
So, I think, it´s difficult to compare Europe thinking with the Chinese. As European one should be fair. It´s another dimension. They need a developement of careful steps to keep the society together. These hardworking people who can be proud of that will surely manage his future.    
I've been several times in this satellite town and could not detect any significant difference in the care of the population with food, restaurants and other businesses in comparison with Beijing. Here too, large supermarkets with excellent hygiene, where shopping made fun and would surprise some Germans with a regard  on their own ones.
The people who live here, work mostly in Beijing, return in the evening at home that seemed to me from the surface larger than those in Germany. But equipment and furniture are much more modest. I was allowed to look at some homes in the area. Sometimes the apartment entrances were solid steel doors. I found stair halls in a slightly dusty condition. The bathrooms were modest, but sufficient.
But compared to the lives of many people there a few years ago, China made a huge step forward. My great respect. Where will they be in a few years? That becomes interesting.