Monday, September 23, 2019

Estremera: Thinking like

Spider’s Web

AS WE entered the Forbidden City, there were several big groups of Chinese tourists gathering behind the tour guides holding flags. And when you’re in China, several means busloads upon busloads. Like a huge mob, far bigger than any anti-government rally the anti-Duterte groups can ever manage to rustle together. Think, the crowd outside SM City in Ecoland before the DFA instituted the online appointment and multiply that crowd by 50. And that’s just the morning crowd starting to trickle in.

Amid the mob, a Chinese man shouts in a commanding tone, apparently ordering his group to gather at one area.

“Many people say they are rude, but it’s really about necessity and culture,” I told Ace. “If you do not raise your voice in a mob like this, you have very little chance of being heard above the crowd and the expanse.”

Knowing my voice can hardly be heard by waiters and my angry voice is more like a squeak than a real shout, I stuck to our host like a leech. Beijing is too big for me.

In an after dinner wine with former CNN and Time bureau chief Jaime FlorCruz and wife Ana, FlorCruz pointed out that talking in loud voices is also common among our kin in the provinces. It’s the space that our voices have to travel that brings up the volume. In urban areas when you will be awakened by the smell of your neighbor’s breakfast and the creaking of their beds, we tend to whisper... Not in China, where everything is jumbo sized.

In that same nightcap, Jimmy and Ana said that in the late 1980s, our hotel, the Jinglun Hotel, was the last urban structure in the area. After that was still the “kabukiran”. Nothing there, just raw land. Jinglun, Ana said, was one of the first joint venture hotel investments with foreign capitalists after China’s open door policy in 1978.

Jinglun, opened in August 1984, was a joint venture with Canadian investment and Japanese management. The other one, the first ever joint venture, is the Jianguo Hotel just next door to the west. An exact replica of the Palo Alto Holiday Inn, the Jianguo was built by a Chinese-American investor and is managed by the Peninsula Group of Hong Kong. It opened in 1982, making it the very first.

Today, Jinglun with 686 rooms and Jianguo with 500 rooms can hardly be seen amid the towering buildings. Yes, hotels with 500 rooms are tiny in Beijing. Now imagine yourself, standing amid the gigantic structures, wanting to be heard over the din of motor and vehicle traffic...

It’s always best to think like the other to better understand who, what, and why they are.


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