Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Getting Bike Parts in Rural China

Yesterday we returned home to Jiuzhaigou from a long span abroad (like 9 days or something) whereby we spent most of it in Chengdu save for a couple of days in Qongching.
Qongching is about a twelve hour drive from the park which is at least 11 near misses. Driving in China is often measured in near misses as they are so often connected to the distance one drives. Generally a near miss is defined as nearly being involved in some type of accident. Most of which are completely preventable since it is always someone else's fault. A couple of examples of near miss scenarios are: driving down the highway and finding that the road is blocked on a blind corner by three tractor trailers requiring one to apply emergency braking techniques; cars stopping randomly in the middle of the road requiring one to apply emergency braking techniques; chickens, sheep (goats), horses, cows, cats, people running across the road at exactly the wrong moment, requiring one to apply emergency braking techniques. The general rule for near miss calculations is 1 near miss for every 100 km of multi-lane highway driving and 1 near miss for every 50 km of rural highway driving. Of course near misses increase with speed so that for every 10 km/hr over 100 km/hr near misses will go up by 1 on multi-lane highways and 5 on rural highways. Thus at 200 km/hr one should expect to have one near miss per 10 km on divided highways and one near miss per 1 km on a rural highway.
This should not be confused with near misses in an urban setting where the ratio of near misses to distance traveled goes up dramatically. In this setting near misses can be experienced from both the standpoint of the pedestrian (whether on a bike or on foot) or the car. Consequences are much greater for the pedestrian however and should be noted lest you insist on walking and/or riding your bike in the street or sidewalk without a helmet. By bike one should expect a near miss every block of a chinese industrialized city and on foot one should expect a near miss every ten blocks. The only problem with this is that the Chinese industrialized city block is as of yet undefined.
You may be asking yourself what this has to do with getting bike parts in rural china, and the answer of course is nothing. There is no real correlation here except that when parts are sent to rural areas in china it should be expected that the box which they have been sent in be mostly flattened and heavily taped to keep it together. This is of course an energy saving measure as more boxes can be crammed into a china post truck if they have been flattened, thus making it possible to carry more mail in less trips.
I know this because we recently received to packages from the States one of which was a partially flattened box containing some much needed single-speed bike parts and tools, and the other a mere 7 weeks after being put into the mail a birthday package for Amanda. The former package however was only two days behind its scheduled guaranteed delivery date a mere three weeks from the time it was sent. Interesting how the USPS gives 7-10 days as the delivery period and then tacks on an extra 11 days to cover their assets. My theory on this matter is that they guarantee the package to leave the country within 7-10 days and who knows when it will find its final destination. Of course given that they were within two days of the expected perhaps there is some merit to their coin toss of a delivery prediction.

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