Saturday, November 1, 2008

Big 8 Road

Guangba Road -- My new home. Bustling, unkempt, odiferous, genuinely Chinese.... It's what makes being here both entertaining and unpleasant, exciting and repulsive, inspiring and concerning... Truly one of the many yin-and-yangs I've found myself in the middle of. It's purpose is to connect two major roads, Ba Yi Road and Luo Yu Road, so it's only one block. Again, that's one Chinese block, so it takes about 10 minutes to walk down the whole stretch. In the middle of the block is my apartment complex, Yinghai Yayuan. Like I said, I got really lucky.

(My building is obscured from view by the left-
most building, but it looks just like these)

Guangba Road is about every literary device you can think of...metaphor, simile, microcosm, onomatopoeia, hyperbole, personification. The character of Guangba is where I get most of my ideas about China, because there's so much to absorb every time I walk down it. The sidewalk in front of the shops is what a countertop is to a kitchen; workers weld carts and ladders, mothers change their babies' diapers or let them "do their business," and small restaurants lay out their greens on a towel for a natural rinsing when it rains. Thus, you gotta watch where you're walking, especially since many of the bricks on the sidewalk were placed specifically to sprain ankles.

Finding a clean spot on Guangba isn't easy, but, at the least, it's paved, and the city puts in efforts to beautify it. Trees uniformly line the street, and maintainance workers can often be seen sweeping it. However, I've only found three trash "cans" so far on the street. These are large metal boxes with little doors on the bottom so that garbagemen can rake out the filth into a burlap sack, then place the filled sack onto a pull cart and head to the next one.... This job could be a lot more efficient. I hope they get paid as much as they do in the US. Dealing with trash in general actually could be a lot more efficient. If I had to guess, I'd say that littering is not illegal. I see people littering all the time.

Another reason I love Guangba Lu? The translation. According to my students, "Guangba Lu" literally translates to "Big 8 Road." The names of the shops on Big 8 Road are also very entertaining. Most of the names are in Chinese, but there are a few shops with English titles. "Shoes," "Noodles," "Emo Rock Shop." Btw, the mannequin in the display case of Emo Rock Shop dons a T-shirt saying "Lose control of your feelings." There is kind of a weird emo fad going on here -- several of my students have these real elaborate, ridiculous hairstyles, telling me they love emo rock, often using writing assignments to vent their emotions... Whatever floats your boat, I guess. Anyway, my favorite name of a store is "Ann." What's in that store? I mean obviously someone named Ann, but what's the service? What if I opened a store named "Evan"... would people come? I tell myself, yes, since I've always wanted to charge people just to be around me. Once when I was walking the streets of San Francisco, a homeless person accompanied me and told me about all of the brothels and bars to go to. I didn't ask him to come along, but he did anyway. After about 20 minutes, he asked if he could get some money. I was pretty drunk at the time. I told him no. Then he got mad and told me that he had provided me a service. "Service? I should've charged you!" Maybe someday I will, thanks to trailblazers like Ann.

A lot of my biggest achievements have come on Guangba Road. For example, it was the first place that I ordered a bao zi. I will explain this in detail later, but I was incredibly happy when I accomplished this. It's also very vibrant at night. This was made obvious on the night I arrived here... We were approaching my apartment, but before we got there, we literally drove through a market that had set up right in the middle of the street. It was like driving through a block party, but at night. I, of course, laughed during all of this. But it happens every night here, and, similarly, one of my proudest moments was ordering a bowl of noodles in the night market.

Anyway, so my street is great. I've been to other places in the area, and it really is the best place around. A lot of the other streets are either too crowded or have vibrant marketplaces like Guangba's but aren't as pretty or well maintained. Most of these places I come across are on the walk that I take to class every day, so I've had a lot of time to think about them.

My walk, btw, is real long. Every morning I have to leave my apartment at 7:20 so I can arrive at my 8 am class on time. Despite the length, I enjoy the walk very much. It's usually pretty hectic to walk along Ba Yi road (again, that's "8-1 Road" -- sweet name yeah?), but walking in the university is always beautiful. There are many things to gaze at: the trees and flowers, the group of old women doing tai chi, the courtyard at the front of campus, the mountain to the east of campus. It's a nice calmness before the storm (i.e. me teaching)

trace of my route to campus from my apartment.
I'm workin on finding a quicker way, but keep
in mind that there are lots of walls here, and
theres also two mountains in between.
The important landmarks are labelled.

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