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The sounds of Beijing…

… through a third floor office window…

I’m writing this on the way back to the hotel after a good and productive day. The A/C hasn’t yet been switched on for the building – or any of the government buildings, we are told – so the windows were open all to provide at least some measure of relief from the heat and humidity.

And along the day, the sounds of the northern capital stream through the windows. In many ways, they are sounds not dissimilar from urban sounds in many other cities. There are, of course, car and truck horns. But they are far more plentiful here than in Ottawa, Toronto or Montreal. The car horn repair business must indeed be lucrative here; as it likely is in cities like Paris and London. The same would go for brake shops.

Squeaking and squealing brakes, gears shifting, the roar of diesel engines… all are common here and again, are to a more or less degree, common elsewhere as well.

But there are sounds from the Beijing streets that are different from those I have heard elsewhere.

  • Chants from soldiers or other groups… Occasionally one hears a very firm and loud chant from street level sounding like many men shouting in unison.
  • Loud speakers repeating patriotic sayings… on a previous Mission I had asked one of the interpreters about what was coming out of loudspeakers on a bus or perched on a car. I was told that Party faithful from time to time drive through the streets of Beijing playing popular Communist party sayings or pearls of wisdom.
  • Yelling. Lots of yelling. Men yelling back and forth to one another…. yeah, yeah, you get this elsewhere… but not to this degree! It sometimes sounds like a rumble is going to break out any time… but it’s usually only one bud yelling across the street to another.

It IS so very different here in many ways.


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