arhyalon (arhyalon) wrote,

China Post Thirteen -- In Which I Dare To Walk Around The Block

Emboldened by my walk yesterday, I found today that I was gripped by wanderlust. The map that normally exists in my head, telling me about the local area, is nearly blank, and I find this uncomfortable. So, I wanted to go beyond just walking down the street and see if I could walk around the block.

But first, events with the daughter. This morning, we went to one of the orphanages to see some of Ping-Ping's friends. A gentleman who worked there spoke some English and chatted with me briefly.  He was clearly very pleased to see Ping-Ping. She is still Yue Ping Ping to these people, and she is a celebraty of sorts, with everyone exclaiming in delight and amazement when they see her. we had Guang Huang Zen and Qiao Qiao with us. To of the people Ping-Ping wished to meet were not there, so we went out for a delicious lunch in the local area, walking some distance to get there. We went to a place Qiao Qiao (pronounced Chow Chow) recommended. 

Chow Chow has been with us for most of the last week. I was puzzled at first, as this was not one of the children I had known about, but Ping-Ping has a lot of friends she refers to just as 'my friend'. Chow Chow is quiet and thoughtful. She is the only chubby child I've seen here. She knows a few English words and phrases which she uses with great amusement. Ping-Ping seems to like her very much. 

As we left to come back, Chow Chow stayed behind...I was surprised to find out that the orphanage we had just visited is her home. I had thought she was from the school like the other children I had met. It seemed sad to leave her, but I gather we'll see her again on Thursday. 

When we got back, Ping-Ping took Pan Xiao Li, her meimei (little sister) bra shopping. For some reason, they took GuangHuangZen with them. Ping-Ping came back with some excellent photos of the the three of them from one of the funny photo booths the children here love so much. I will try to copy some and send them to G.H.Z.'s future American family. 

While they were out, I had my chance! I told the still sleepy YiYi (she had been up really late) that I was heading out on a walk and slipped out by myself.

The whole world lay before me, an adventure waiting to happen!

First, I bought candy. For some reason, at the end of each mean, I keep wanting something sweet. Sometimes there is fruit offered, but it isn't quite dessert. What I really felt like was hard candy. So, I went peeking in among the local stores and finally found exactly what I wanted. (Earlier attempts had not produce quite the right type of candy.)  I got a bag filled with hard candy of different types....milk flavor, cola, raspberry. Exactly what I wanted! I put some in my bag. The rest went on the table when I get back for the constant stream of teens coming through here to eat. I also bought a few other things, cookies, chocolate covered macadamians, etc, and some of the jasmine tea with honey that John and I loved last time. (I've been drinking it the whole time I've been here. We found it once at home, at the local Chinese grocery store. Boy is it good!) 

Armed with this bounty, I set out to walk around the block. This did not sound too hard. Four corners and you're back, right? Well...everywhere else in the world, maybe. Not in China.

It took me five turns to get back. Not sure why. I suspect that if I had gone straight after the third turn I might have made it also, that the fourth was onto a diagonal road that cut across the block...but either way, I had now successfully negotated a block and had a better idea of where things were. 

I was victorious!

The only sad thing was that Ping-Ping had put a cross around my neck earlier. I looked down and discovered that the chain had broken and the cross had been lost. I looked around for it for a little while but did not find it. I knew it did not cost much, but I was still sad to lose it.

Emboldened by my success, I decided to head farther afield...a larger block. I had with me the blue bag that Auntie gave me that I carry has a notebook and the translation box. This morning I had finally looked at it and realized that it had the name of the school on it. I figured if I got really lost, I could hail a taxi and point at it. 

So, I set out. I walked beyond the school to the next large road...a very large road with one of those raised highways running down the middle. I decided to go right, which was farther from the apartment. It seemed more daring. I walked for a bit and came to another larger cross road to the right. Only this one ran at an angle away from where I wanted to go...I had no idea if it would ever meet Huangshi Donglu, the main road in front of the apartment, which was now my destinaton. 

I headed up it nonetheless and down the next road that ran back to the right again. This was a quiet road. The people along it, the man who was sweeping, the children throwing orange peels for a puppy, the man on a motorbike, all looked at me oddly. After a bit, I realized why. It did not turn a ended in a turnable. It was not a through road. They were all wondering where in the world I could be going. I had to pass the same folks again leaving. It was rather long for a pointless detour. Sigh.

Coming back, I had to make a decision...continue forward on my quest to make a rough square, or go back the way I had come? If I continued and had to turn around, it would be quite a long walk. 

Adventure called. I went forward!

After a bit more, I came to a road to the right that had enough traffic that I felt it must be a through road. I dared. I took it. 

I walked down this long windy road, passing an infinite number of small grungy shops selling teas and candy or weird food substances like a roll of something that might be fish surrounded by seaweed and covered with some kind of powder. A few of the stores had billiard tables in front of them. One even had children playing billiards. I passed lots of people on motor bikes, a canal beside which walked women carrying bright red papers for Chinese New Year, intriguing smelling side roads. Lots of intriguing people.

As I walked, I contemplated the mysteries around me: what was that papery whitish food on a stick? A paistry? A pork product?; Why, earlier in the day, had we seen six or eight venders with carts selling steamed corn on the cob right next to each other at the bus station...and nowhere but the bus station. Was steamed corn a bus thing?; What where those squat cylanders of cement...maybe two feet high and about as wide..lined with verticle white and red reflectors? One saw them various places, but I could not see any purpose or function; Why did some of the trees in the countryside have rooves halfway up them. The rooves did not seem to cover anything except the ground beneath. What was their purpose?

These and other puzzles presented themselves to me and I contemplated them as I walked. 

As I walked, I began to worry. I had come quite a long way. If I was right about where I was going, I should be able to make it back no problem...but if I had to turn around and retrace my was going to be a really long walk. I didn't know if I felt up to it. I figured I coud do it--all things are possible with was daunting!

Then, ahead of me was a place where the road seemed to curve on itself. Was it another dead end? The idea of having to walk all the way back was so daunting that I realized there was a tear on my cheek. I gathered my courage, prayed a bit, and pressed forward. My sense of logic said this had to work. There had to be a way back to the other main road. 

To my delight, the road did continue. Around the corner was a fair. Brightly colored tents covered clothing, knickknacks, bins of brightly-wrapped candies and dried fruit, jewerly, moonbounces for children and more. And if I did decide I to give up, I could make it home.

As I neared an intersection, I decided I needed guidence. I wrote down the name of the main road and approached a policeman. I showed it to him. He was a young slender fellow. He grinned and pointed in the direction I was going.

Delighted, I pushed forward. I was so pleased that my sense of direction had proved correct that it was a few minutes before I realized the real good news: I was not going to have to walk back the long way after all!

To one side, some young men were selling these long dark stalks I saw everywhere which I thought was a varient of bamboo. They lay on the sidewalk all over the place. People stripped the outer bark off and gave the light -colored woody substance beneath to children to eat. I stopped and watched the young men quickly stripping them with large knives. They tossed a few left over pieces among the shavings. I wished I could take one and try it...but they probably did not give free samples. 

Finally, I got up the courage to indicate that I wanted to know how much for a piece. 2 yuan for a large, 1 yuan for a small...about a foot of stalk. That is about 16 cents. I bought one. The young man quickly stripped it for me and gave it to me with a plastic bag for holding it.

Biting into the fibery stuff, I realized it was not bamboo. It was sugar cane!

Boy was it good. You could only chew the fiber for a little while before you had to spit it out, but the juicy stuff was just excellent. And it really added to the sense of adventure. Also, you never notice how many trash cans are in a city until you are looking for a place to spit weird woody fibery stuff.

I do not know if this fair was a normal market or was for Chinese New Year, but the existance of moon bounces and rides for children made me suspect that it was temporary...sprung up in what was normally a road and a park square. Everything was charming and quaint and mildly unfamiliar. I was intrigued by the bins of candy and fruits...but could not figure out how you bought what weight or measure. 

Finally, I came to the end. There was a cross road. In one direction I glimpsed a large road. A man said hello to me...the only person to speak to me without being approached during the whole day. His boldness amused his friends. I showed him the road name, but he did not know it. I would have worried...not believing that a person could be 200 ft from a road and not know its name..except that my daughter who lived in this area for years and could not find it on a map of the city. I figured this might be a Chinese thing. So, I headed for the main road I could glimpse about 200 ft away.

And sure enough, there it was! Huangshi Donglu! I recognized the oddly curved metal bars above stone pillars in the park square that I had passed yesterday on my walk and today in the bus!

I had made it!

A bit more of a walk and a purchase of a pair of gold dangly earrings from a street vender (no idea what I am going to do with these earrings, but it came to me rather strongly to buy them.) and I was home!  To the great relief of YiYi, who was beginning to worry.

Took me an hour or so, but I had done it. I had successfully walked around the block!

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