I Am Legend

Nov 5, 2012

A bridge to somewhere

What’s all that noise?

Bridge construction
October, 2011: The big, white building sporting the mini-Epcot hat is our school!
Bridge construction
December, 2011

On our first morning in China, our boss, Sarah, and her husband drove us around our new home, pointing out various city landmarks. A main feature of the tour were the four bridges that connected the peninsula of the city center with greater Luzhou. We drove back and forth over the Tuo Jiang and Chang Jiang rivers. And Sarah pointed out with pride the under-construction fifth bridge — which was going up practically in our new backyard.

This bridge, she explained, would connect the city with the southern countryside, where they were building a new campus for Tianfu Middle School. We crossed the Chang Jiang to take a spin through an expansive pile of dirt and scaffolding that would become the new school in the following year.

Peter and I took it in, all jet lagged and bewildered, and returned to our apartment to unpack and sleep.

In the months that followed, 24-hour construction ensured that the new bridge grew at a rapid pace. When we walked by, we joined the crowd of lookie-loos that stopped to supervise the work. Extra-keen citizens would breech the safety walls to get an up-close look at the equipment and rubble, though we were happy to inspect from the sidelines.

The noise moved further and further away from our bedroom window, and the scaffolding moved out to the river and then disappeared, leaving a solid structure in its place. As summer approached, and we had confirmed our second year at the school, our other boss, Linda, talked with excitement about the new school, which was also nearing completion. We had many discussions about how and when we would get out there. If we lived at the old school, maybe we’d learn to take the bus out to the countryside. If we lived at the new school, maybe a school car could drive us into the city to do our grocery shopping.

One day, when out for a stroll by the river, we looked up and noticed people streaming across the bridge. It had been open to pedestrians, though not yet to cars. Though there wasn’t yet anything on the other side, everyone wanted to walk the span, including us. (The first morning of the flood, the bridge was a popular platform from which to view the risen waters.) It was strange to walk down the middle of what was designed to be a major roadway — very “I Am Legend.”

The first cars started crossing in about August — though traffic was light, because, as I said, there’s nothing really on the other side yet. When we finally took a ride over, many of the roads were still more of a plan than a reality. Even today, the bus we take from old to new school crosses dirt in places to get there.

But big changes are expected, as can be surmised from the size of those roads that are being built over on the other side. It’s definitely changed things for us, as now we live part time in the countryside. Much more on that to come …

The bridge is open, but there's no traffic