Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The 'Hood

It has actually cooled off a bit, with some rain and temperatures in the 60's. Some people like Yali really bundle up.
We live in a kind of upscale neighborhood by Zhanjiang standards. We are a block from the water, which has the wonderful park that follows the shore. Just up the street are a bunch of new high rises that command a big price. Near those is a very nice private park and resort with spa, hotels, bungalows, and restaurants.
A block away there is something that shouldn’t be here, a big open grassy field. It’s a part of the park, and some people use it for flying kites, but it seems its main purpose is that it is a great place to shoot off fireworks whenever the occasion warrants it. There are some nightclubs around here, but the noise is more secondary, with a bit of horrible karaoke drifting in at wee hours on weekends. There is a gym across the alley that has an aerobics class at 8 each night. Techno and a guy yelling “Go, go, go!” He has the technology to make his music go faster, and thusly at a different pitch, too. I actually heard “Country Road” done in techno. I don’t think James Taylor saw any royalties for it.
We live in an older walk up that is only 7 stories high. We are on the third floor. It’s my kind of place, low rent in a high rent district. The neighbors are mostly families and few retired folks. Kinda homey and friendly.
Everything you need is within walking distance. There is a hole in the wall noodle place next door, where you can go down with a pot first thing in the morning and get enough noodles and soup to get you going for cheap. The next place sells beer, sodas and smokes. Bakery store across the street, groceries a block down. Hairdressers, foot massage, clinic, flowers, restaurants, car wash and a McDonald’s down the street in the high rent district.
It is noisy here. It's a city, after all, and the most important piece of equipment on any Chinese vehicle, from motorbike to bus is the horn. I have seen motorcycles drive down an empty street at 7 in the morning beeping their horns every 8 seconds or so. Here is how it works: cars, trucks, buses, and motorcycles have the right of way. It’s not the law, it’s just the way things are here. A bus will turn into a bunch of traffic honking his horn. Everyone stops because he is the biggest. When someone passes a bike or motorcycle, they will honk so the 2 wheeler doesn’t meander in front of them. Motorcycles honk so everyone knows they are there and either get out of their way if they are on foot, or doesn’t run them over if they are bigger. It’s rarely done in anger. It’s just the way a bunch of bad drivers keep from killing each other. I’m sure there are horn repair shops in each neighborhood. The owners send their kids to private schools and keep high price mistresses.
At about midnight though it gets real quiet. I don’t think there is much in the way of a graveyard shift in this neighborhood, and if there is, the people who work it can’t afford horns. It stays really quiet until about 6:30 when the people who can afford horns start going to work. Anyway, I manage a good night’s sleep most nights except when someone’s car or motorcycle alarm goes off while they are out of town or drunk.


  1. you are an amazing storyteller Marshall... I will be checking out you Blog as often as I can!!!

  2. How do they make the sky purple like that?

  3. Very interesting post! Make the temperature drop about 50 degrees, and you could very well be describing most cities in Jilin Province up north. The traffic, the shops, and yes the horns. The glorious horns.


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