Like some place people have actually heard of.
I have to admit it would be nice to live in a city that my friends might want to come visit. So far I’ve only managed to coerce people into visiting me by promising them that they can sleep on my couch.
And this tactic really only works with hobos. Unfortunately, I don’t really know enough hobos.
Most of my friends are like, “Umm, and why would I go all the way to some random city in China just so I can sleep on your couch?”
Obviously, they haven’t seen enough pictures of my couch.I go to Shanghai about once a month. And every time I’m there, I have to admit that I feel the teensiest bit envious of my friends who live there.
I mean, they get to do all this fun stuff like buy cheese and go to Western restaurants on a regular basis.
It’s like they live in a parallel universe version of China. A universe where the dairy section of the supermarket doesn’t just consist of weird yogurt drinks and beer is served as it should be – chilled with a nacho platter.After my recent trip to Beijing, I started to feel a new twinge of big city jealousy.
But it had nothing to do with cheese or nacho platters.
Okay, maybe it did have a little bit to do with cheese.
But, mostly, I was jealous of Beijing’s parks.
Now, don’t get me wrong, Wuxi has a crazy amount of parks. Like, I’m pretty sure this city has more parks than people.
I can leave my apartment building from pretty much any direction, and I will hit a park. And, once that park is finished, I will hit another park.
I know this because I’ve spent the past few months running through all the parks in my neighborhood in an attempt to train for the Great Wall 10K. Every time I’d get to the end of one park, I’d be like, “Looks like this park is finished. Guess I’d better turn around and head home.” And then I’d see another park right across the street from the park I had just run through. So I’d have to keep on running until that park finished. But then there would be another park after that park. And so on and so on until I could no longer feel my knees.
It’s like Wuxi wants my body to self-destruct.And, trust me, these parks are not sad, tree-less, concrete-covered affairs.
They are sprawling expanses with sun-dappled walkways fringed with green grass and leafy bushes.
There are park benches and playgrounds and ornately carved pagodas.
And there are tons of bridges — the pretty, arched kind of bridges that remind you of old water color paintings.My favorite local park is a wetlands protection area that rests along a small portion of the massive Lake Tai.
There are all these signs everywhere that talk up the different types of birds and plants that live in the park.
There’s even something called a “waterfowl appreciation area.”
There’s also a funky little sculpture garden full of cool sculptures like this one:
And creepy sculptures like this one:
As you can see, my local parks are really nothing to scoff at. Especially because I’m pretty sure that banana statue comes alive at night and will totally eat your face off if you even dare to scoff at it.But it wasn’t until my recent trip to Beijing when I realized what my parks were missing: people doing crazy stuff.
Sure, there are people at my local parks.
But they’re usually just doing boring park things – like walking or sitting or staring at the weird white girl running around in spandex pants. (Ahem. That would be me.)
There are the occasional tai-chi-ers.
There’s one lady who likes to walk backwards, with her hands up in a large V-shape.
And there’s one guy who can do a full split and stay that way for at least five minutes.
But, for the most part, the crowd at my local park is pretty ho-hum.
Now, this is definitely not the case in Beijing – at least not at the Temple of Heaven Park, which I visited on my last day in the city.
I can’t say I was feeling particularly in a temple-y mood when I decided to hit up the park. But it was within walking distance from my hotel, and I felt I should leave my hotel room at least once during the day to justify the ten pounds of food I had eaten at the breakfast buffet.After I’d entered the park gates, it didn’t take me long to realize that the main attraction at the park wasn’t the temples.
Sure, the temples were pretty and all.
But those temples couldn’t possibly compete with the crowds of over sixty-somethings who descend upon the park everyday.
You see, if you happen to be retiree in Beijing, the Temple of Heaven Park is apparently the place to hang.
There were people dancing.
And playing cards, mahjong and Chinese chess.
There was workout equipment.
And newspapers to read.
And a marriage market, where parents could try to match up their unmarried sons and daughters.
And there were whole bunches of people doing this amazing dance thing that involved what looked like badminton rackets. I stood there watching them with my mouth open for at least twenty minutes. And then I took this video.
I mean, how do you even get gravity to work like that?
I suspect there was some kind of wizardry involved.Since returning to Wuxi from Beijing last week, I have to admit my favorite local park has kind of lost its place in my heart.
I mean, sure, it’s got pretty pagodas and cool statues and a weird white girl running around in spandex pants. (Ahem, me again.)
But where’s the action and excitement and the anti-gravity badminton rackets?
I seriously think those waterfowl are going to have to step things up a notch. Like start giving me something to appreciate, if you know what I mean.Have a favorite park? Tell me all about it.