Dec 11, 2012

Where the air is sweet

Walking around in a new part of town

The road to the countryside campus
Walking with some girlsThe countryside market

We hadn’t visited the Chinese countryside until this summer, and to tell you the truth, we had been a little scared of it. “We’re city people! What would we do with all that nature in the middle of nowhere?”

So, when we had heard about the new countryside campus, we were initially resistant to the idea of moving out there. But word came down at the end of the summer that we would be splitting our time between the country and the city, so we started looking at the (half) move as the next phase of our Chinese adventure.

We got down to exploring our new environs, and found that we were actually in the middle of a somewhere. Or, a future somewhere, anyway. The runway to the school is a wide, four-lane road flanked by small farms and what look like hand-built homes which occupy space between gigantic construction sites bringing to life huge apartment complexes.

At the third bus stop towards the city, there is a small spit of land that we’re calling the town, as in, “Let’s go into town tonight.” The centerpiece is a completed apartment complex that is home to many of our students and their families. Surrounding this are restaurants, tea houses, a green market, bodegas, hardware stores, pharmacies and more. Everything you need, if you don’t need anything too special.

The area is far enough from the city, that many residents (including us) find their entertainment locally. And the chief occupation is strolling. There’s very little traffic out this far as of yet, so walkers spill out onto the road, making the rounds and seeing their friends. When we go out for dinner down there, we like to watch the parents out with their kids for a please-go-to-bed-soon evening bike ride.

In the city center, I think there’s an impulse to play it cool around us, but we definitely get noticed the countryside. Kids and adults get startled by our American-ness; braver folk with a little bit of English come over and say hello. Even as recently as yesterday, we caused a bit of a commotion at the hardware store. The proprietress and her patron were tickled that we even existed, leave off the fact that we needed a wrench.

Our school in the distance