I decided to rest my legs today, after walking 9½ miles around Qinhuangdao yesterday, so I got the bus to Qinhuangdao No.1 High School with Clare and the rest of the teachers this morning, and hung around all day; being sociable between lessons and enjoying a bit of a busman’s holiday by providing a bit of IT support.
Clare was one of the judges in this evening’s Speaking Competition. Rather than hanging around the school for another three hours this evening, I walked back to the hotel after eating tea with Clare in the school canteen: £1 for rice, pork something-or-other, and something involving green beans, plus a massive 10p for a steamed roll stuffed with some kind of celery-based mixture. That’s my third rice-based meal of the day, and my little “rice baby” is developing nicely; soon I’ll be able to proudly roll my T-shirt up to expose my belly, just like the locals do.
(Edit: just found out there’s a name for that look: Bang Ye, which means “exposing grandfathers”, also known as the Chinese Shirt Roll or the Beijing Bikini.)
I took a few photos on my way…
Water that looks reasonably clean doesn’t get wasted here. On Saturday morning we saw people washing their cars in rainwater that was running clear; this evening, a mother is using water being pumped out of somewhere (I think it’s from part of the school sports facilities) to wash her daughters’ bikes, while the girls “help” by playing in the water. They look reasonably well-off, judging by the clothes, appearance, and the bikes, but I don’t think there’s any stigma associated with using waste water in this way, like there would be in the UK.
This is the view towards the centre of Qinhuangdao, which is past the tower blocks which you can just about make out through the haze, in the centre of the picture. As you can see on the right of the picture, there’s a lot of construction going on; the city is filled with half-completed tower blocks, many of which seem to have had their shell completed, scaffolding removed, then abandoned completely. The main scaffolding starts part way up the building; lower down (about level with the lamppost banners in the photo), there’s a net that extends out from the building to catch anything that falls off, and it looks like plenty of stuff falls off. Also in this picture, there’s the unusual sight of a bike/moped lane which only seems to have bikes and mopeds; more on that later…
This is the Chinese equivalent of a roadside cafe, many of which are literally on the road. It looks like the proprietor and family (or families) lives here too, but I’m guessing it’s not an officially-registered address. Behind the “tents” you’d probably find something that looks remarkably like an allotment; people seem to use any bit of spare ground for growing vegetables, and the climate in this area means that they grow very successfully. Of course, what they end up being coated with, being situated next to a main road, I’ll leave you to imagine.
This is what the bike/moped lanes look like most of the time: not so many bikes, but just about anything else you can think of. The green vehicle next to the hedge is a trike with a flat-bed back; very common around here. The driver appears to have some sort of glass-topped coffee table that he’s either trying to deliver, or perhaps trying to sell to passers-by. On the left, behind the family, you can see melons and other fruit and vegetables laid out on sheets on the ground by an “allotment famer”. Further down, past the truck, there’s a makeshift awning and people sat around at another roadside cafe (barbecued “meat” a speciality), with the smoke from yet another in the background. There is, as usual, a car in the bike lane, and its facing the wrong way. This appears to be completely acceptable… in fact, any kind of driving manoeuvre seems to be acceptable, as long as you do it fairly slowly and use your horn a lot. Drive on the right, or on the left if there’s more room. You should stop at traffic lights… unless you can’t be bothered. Overtake on double centre lines? Sure, just do it slowly and sound your horn. I could go on.
[EDIT: This is a perfect illustration of a commonly-encountered situation at a junction: The Basics Of Driving In China: A Diagram]
Further down the same bike lane, this evening market appears every day and seems to do a roaring trade. Mostly fruit and veg, but also a couple of the ubiquitous meat grills. Although we’ve eaten this kind of food, we haven’t risked one of the temporary ones yet, only those associated with a proper building. Although it did smell quite tempting, despite my having recently eaten a tray-full of rice, pork and beans.
The local motorcycle and scooter sales showroom and repair workshop, spread across a pavement and part of a bike lane. The red three-wheeled van is stuffed with bits and pieces of old bikes. The taller canopy is the workshop; partially-stripped bikes are often left here overnight, as indeed is the motley collection of bikes for sale. I suspect the owner sleeps in the white van, eats at the roadside market on the other side of the junction, and does the necessary… well, wherever necessary.