Big yellow school buses come to China

JISHOU, HUNAN — I arrived last night from my travels in Guangdong and hit the ground running. So, while I muster my resources to blog about the last three weeks, here are photos courtesy of Shanghaiist.com from the first American school bus expo in China, complete with models! (In the States, do school bus manufacturers show off their new (bus) models with (pretty) models? I’m not exactly sure what the message would be, though …) I am not sure what to make of this shot, but it might be some teenage boy’s dream prom date. And one for anime/manga fans … Sarcasm aside, the expo has a serious purpose. There have been several tragic accidents in China involving overloaded “buses” — actually, minivans — transporting kids to and from school. In one accident in Gansu province, there were more than 25 preschoolers packed into a van with only nine seats. Twenty were killed when the van collided with a truck. American school buses, by contrast, have a deserved reputation of being safe, so officials in China are now looking into importing Big Yellows into China.

My new perspective on bus plunge stories 2

LONGSHAN, HUNAN — No, I was not in a bus plunge accident, but I was in a bus, on a mountain road, in the rain last week. The experience was oddly enough one of the highlights of the last three weeks. A time-honored half-inch filler in many newspapers has traditionally been the proverbial “bus plunge” story, which goes something like, GENERICA, HOONOHSISTAN — Nearly 100 people died last week when their overloaded bus skidded off a snowy mountain road and into a ravine 100 feet below. Rescuers were unable to reach the scene until weather conditions improved yesterday. Despite the morbid subject matter, among newspaper people, bus plunge stories are somewhat of a running joke, since they are basically boilerplate copy. You just change the date, the number of casualties and the location and leave everything else basically the same. For years, I half wondered if the Associated Press was pulling our legs and just making these stories up. Some intern was sitting at a desk somewhere manufacturing half-inch bus plunge stories for release at random times. Of course, such accidents really do happen, and they’re no joke. All this was running through my mind as my bus ambled from ...

Passport (under) control, part 2 2

BEIJING — I cut short the previous post, because I realized what time it was: the beginning of rush hour! The time flew by while was writing; it was already 5 pm when I left the Starbucks. Rush hour in Beijing is like rush hour in any big city. As an experienced New Yorker, I knew what I was in for: commuters packed like sardines in a rolling tin can. It was either brave the commuting hordes, or sit in Starbucks for another hour to wait rush hour out. I decided to brave the crowds. Onve you have experienced the arcane, century-old NYC subway system, any newly designed (aka modern) system is a piece of cake. Beijing’s subway is no exception. Pardon me while I bore you with details. My hotel, part of the 7 Days Inn chain, is in Sihui, near my friend Katrina’s Beijing home. It is neat, no frills place, a bit like a Super 8 or a Motel 6. You get cable TV, a nice bathroom, a kingsize bed, free Internet, a smallish room, and free breakfast for 169 RMB a night. My stay here was a total of 1014 RMB for six nights, or about ...
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