Thursday, September 22nd, Day Seven
I binged last night! I was feeling lonely, so I had a See’s Candy Molasses Chip (a present from my wife), a Graze snack (a present from my daughter, Sarah), a bit of lemon fudge (a present from my daughter, Heather), and a Daim (a present from my daughter, Shelby). I’m lucky to have such caring women in my life! Thank you! Yum!
I knew I was going to be out all day walking, so I made some scrambled eggs for breakfast. I mixed the egg with the week-old bread I still had from my plane trip. I’ve been here a week. Seems so much longer, not in a bad way, just so much new and different has made this week very full. Was it only a week ago that I was getting that taxi at the Chengdu airport?
I did a Sudoku while I ate my breakfast, then read emails. Thank you to all that sent me comments about this blog. You’re good company. I called Melissa at 10am. How wonderful it is to be able to chat with my wife every day! Had another cup of hot Jasmine tea, which has become my go-to comfort food. I finished breakfast with an Asian pear.
The walk into town was going to be 2.5 miles, according to my GPS map system. I decided to take the secondary roads, off the main boulevards, just to see what I might find. It was mainly quiet, residential neighborhoods with the occasional row of shops. I followed my GPS religiously, until it led me into a wall. The map showed a street going through, but there was definitely a wall. I back-tracked and tried another route. After a couple more dead-ends, some leading into tiny roads that became backyards, I decided I better stick to the main roads. Without too much trouble I was on the boulevard, walking beside six lanes of traffic on a 20-foot wide tree-lined sidewalk. I picked up my pace to make up some time.
When I go walking for long distances, I start to think of the goal, the end point, and walk very fast. I had to slow myself down, remember to look around. A brand new collection of buildings caught my eye. I loved it’s playful and creative architecture. There were building that looked like they were bent, twisted, had holes in them. Some of the holes had 2-story sculptures spilling out.
The buildings formed a semi-circle around an open multi-level plaza/park. I climbed the stairs, drawn further and further into this serene setting. Why weren’t there more people here? I saw less than 10 folks in the park over the course of half an hour. Was it because it was starting to rain? Or everybody was at work? It was eerie, but I enjoyed my exclusive visit.
There was a large metal sculpture up a few stories, so I went looking for an elevator, hoping to be able to take some pictures from a higher angle, too. I followed a couple ladies to a door, to a bank of elevators. They took an elevator down. I took one up.
I looked at the top floor, 32, and said, “Why not?”
The elevator said something in Chinese, then in English: “This elevator is not in service at this time.” Oops! I quickly got out, decided I better try going down. I took the elevator to the first floor, walked out into the lobby. It looked like this was an office building. Folks were searching a large directory, then walking down a corridor. I followed, came to a set of doors, went through.
It was as if I were Dorothy opening her door to find Oz! I walked into the most beautiful shopping mall I have ever seen! Well, at first I just thought it was a few shops, each of the names famous enough for even me to recognize: Swarovski, Longines, Gucci. I walked along the corridor, then came to a large, open center rotunda. Around the outside were more stores: Victoria’s Secret, Tommy Hilfiger, LaCoste. I looked over the edge. There were two more levels below the one I was on. At the bottom was a WWII American fighter plane.
I looked up. There were three more levels! At the top, there was a large glass window. But it was doing something strange. I looked more closely and it looked like there were raindrops hitting the glass. But it wasn’t raindrops, exactly.
My mouth dropped open as I realized I was seeing rain, but it was hitting a layer of water on top of the glass, and that layer of water was the pond I had just photographed out in the park! This shopping center was underneath the park! Or, another way of thinking of it, the park was the rooftop of the shopping mall! Either way, it was amazing and beautiful.
The rotunda branched off in four directions. Down the corridors I could see Sephora and Haagen-Dazs, and no shoppers. I looked around and the only people I saw were a couple of workers cleaning and sweeping. How did this place pay for itself?
I wasn’t interested in shopping, so I went back outside, to look, again, at the ponds and the park. I looked for, and finally found, a small, discrete entrance to the shopping mall from the park.
I left the park by the main entrance. Later, I would count the number of stores in this hidden shopping mall from the directory I picked up: some 200 stores on five stories!
Back on the road, over the river, I finally made it into the center of Chengdu. I waved at Mao, standing in front of the museum, passed the Tibetan merchants, dressed in full regalia, circled through another shopping mall under the main square, and set a course to walk back using a different route.
The walk home was longer. I was feeling the miles, and the rain. I did pass lots of sidewalk restaurants, but nothing looked worth a stop. I checked every steamed bun merchant but never found any that were bean-filled.
Close to home, I started to see people carrying boxes. It was odd enough that I looked at the boxes. There was a man carrying a Panasonic DVD drive. Another man strapping a Lenova computer to the back of his bike.
There were two men unloading a box of Dell computers. The box looked large enough to hold at least 24 laptop computers. And they were unloading this box from a pickup truck that had another 12-16 large boxes, all of them marked Dell! As I scanned the area, I noticed another truckload of computers, as well as every form of transportation, all carrying computers!
I followed a fellow pulling a cart to a building with a sign saying, Next Century Computer Plaza.
I didn’t have time today, but made a note to come back and visit this building.
Walking a little further I recognized my neighborhood. I was close to the farmer’s market, so I took a side street to go get some vegetables, but I couldn’t find the market. Out of time (because tonight was American Consulate Movie Night), I followed my GPS map to the apartment.
Got back, took a shower, shaved, got on clean clothes, and went to the Consulate, an easy walk and one I knew because the Consulate was across the street from the Police Station. I was early, so had to wait for about 10 minutes before being admitted. I met Jeremy, another American, who had lived in Chengdu for three years. He offered to talk with me about Chengdu. We exchanged numbers. While we were waiting, another 20-30 folks lined up to see the movie.
Inside, I met the Consulate’s cultural director, as well as several Chinese, who wanted to practice their English. The movie this month was “Spotlight.” It had won the Academy Award Best Picture for 2015. But it was a strange choice for this crowd. The movie recounted the true story of the Boston Globe reporters who broke the story about priests abusing children. There was an attempt at a discussion at the end of the film. Was it the topic? Or a quiet crowd? In any case I wasn’t going to open my mouth. I was wondering if the Consulate would be as willing to show Snowden.
I walked home in the rain, feeling sad and depressed. I’m sure it was the movie. I hate crying in public, but especially in a foreign country where I’m uncertain how it will be interpreted. And by the end of the movie I was holding back tears.
I stopped at Wal-Mart for steamed buns, but there were none left. So I got a yolk-included angel food cake in the shape of a loaf of bread.
I made noodles with stir-fried vegetables and finished my meal with half a Golden Cake and Jasmine tea.