Yesterday, after a little over a month of living in China, we finally went downtown.
I would wince if I read that. How can I be so close to Chengdu and not have gone downtown? I am not a bat, a little old lady or a complete ignoramus. I promise.
But, it’s been an action packed month-complete with a trip to Hong Kong, lots of rain and a full time teaching job. Not to mention, I have a neighborhood to explore. My first little triumph was finding the best little baozi stand on this side of the Pacific (or Atlantic?). But it hasn’t stopped there-we’ve tried everything from steamed rice flour beef to chicken feet and beef tripes in our hot pot. We have a favorite noodle place and I have had bubble tea from at least three shops all within a few feet of each other. I know where to get water, gas, books, trinkets, photos and where to find an open air market. My neighborhood is immense, and I think I could spend another month discovering the shops and restaurants here.
Chinese cities are a little overwhelming. Mostly, I imagine it is because I don’t speak Chinese very well (although I’m trying). When I go into town, I have to get very specific directions from my co-workers and then I hope that they’ve given me the right side of the road for the bus I’ve just taken. I have to count the bus stops on my fingers and hope there will be a seat close to a window so I can make sure that we are indeed stopping because people are getting on and not because there is too much traffic. Then, were do we go? If we don’t know, how will the taxi driver (for example).
Chinese names are also a little harder for me to remember. A lot of time in a language we speak, we connect the names with ideas. If you tell me that I have to go to Lake Street to get to Big Lake Park, I’ll associate the two. Obviously. ChengTianDianHaiJie really doesn’t mean much-although I will sometimes dutifully copy down the advice I get in pinyin, only to find that the sign I’m reading is strictly in Chinese characters.
So, getting around is a little difficult.
But also, you need to have a destination in mind. This isn’t Europe, and not every building gets a separate ‘ooh’ or ‘aww’. You have to know where to look and what to do. Are you going to a market? Are you going to eat? Is there a museum? An old road?
So, those are some of the reasons it took us one month just to go downtown.
I think going downtown has eased that fear. The subway helps with that too. You can get on and off and as long as you remember your way back to where you came from, you know you’ll get home! Everything is also in Pinyin and even bears an English translation sometimes…so it’s just comforting to know it’s there.
(Noah had fun in TianFu Square, which has a lot of fountains.)
(I also had fun taking pictures of the fountains)
(Who had more fun?)
Anyway, another goal during this holiday is to see something else in Chengdu. I am very happy-I might go someplace with a Chinese girl I’ve been talking to.
This is TianFu Square…You can see Chairman Mao in the background.
PS-Am feeling nostalgic for my teenie bopper days…Apparently in Chinese coffee shops, the Backstreet Boys are still popular…the one….desire…it’s too late…but I want it….
You know you know the lyrics!:P