So having acquired an apartment just in the nick of time, I procured a bicycle and decided
to become a commuter cyclist in China. At this point I only had a vague idea of where my apartment was in relation to the city. I only had a vague idea of where I worked, outside from knowing that it was in the middle of nowhere.
And this, for the next few months, would be my life. I would start my day in a home that was slight off the beaten path. I would then bike, for about 45 min to an hour, down Tianmushan Lu. Tianmushan is an interesting road, and I have come to think of it as Heraclitus’ commute. It never seems to be the same twice. Some days there is construction on this block, but the next day that part of the road will be fine, and another will be completely torn up. Every single day on this road is different, and it is truly never the same road twice. The experience was initially horrifying, but after a while I just started to become mundane and frustrating, just like anyone elses commute. Before I knew it I was screaming at people in a language they can’t understand (English) and had gone back to the exact same road rage I had hoped to have left back in the US.
If there is one saving grace to the commute, it is that at time it is very pretty indeed. Tianmushan runs south of the Xixi wetlands, a large natural reserve (or so it is called on all the maps I have seen. It is developed inside, so its not really a natural reserve. But what the fuck do I know). Tianmushan is a a very wide boulevard, but it has subsidiary roads on either side, which function mostly as bike and bus lanes. It isn’t by any stretch of the imagination easy to navigate, but it is well shaded and even kinda pretty here and there, which makes for a less miserable daily commute. I have been told that the wetlands are pretty much ground zero for the summer’s mosquito outbreak, so I should get used to that on my commute.
The shopping center I work at is at the south western most point of the wetlands, where Tianmushan road hits Wu Chang road (and for sometime I mistakenly heard this as ‘Wu-tang’ rd, and was very happy). The most convenient bike entrance passes over te canal pictured above, and I was haunted to see the fisherman pictured to the right fishing there. Besides the fact that one of them was far to over dressed to be fishing, the water looked so brackish and disgusting that I wouldn’t eat anything that came out of it. Not to mention, just perhaps a block away, some women were doing their laundry in the said same canal. I imagine that the fish they caught tasted of detergent. And be sure that fish were indeed caught; I have since passed by on numerous occasions, and often see a fish or two in a bucket. I can hope that it is destined to go be a pet in someone’s home, but I am not optimistic.
The first thing you find when you walk in to the shopping center is a Starbucks. The second is a Zara. It doesn’t get much better from there. My center is way on the other end, on the fourth floor. It is situated next to a restaurant that trumpets loud, terrible all music all the time at volumes that make it clear through the walls and soundproofing (if there is any). But to make matters worse, the restaurant only has maybe a dozen songs on rotation. At this point I have the whole album (which is something to the effect of a greatest hits of Chinese music, because I hear these songs or differing version of everywhere I go) memorized, and a very good idea of when what song will be played based on the time.
As for the center I work in itself, it is a bit unimpressive. Most of the school is off white, though each classroom has a glass wall, giving everything a fish bowl feel. But as an accent color the school went with hot pink, which doesn’t bother my as a choice so much as the fact that they went with the hottest, most retina-melting shade of that color one can imagine. The class rooms are large, and the students have to have a seat on those awful chair desk combinations that I hated from university. The office is cramped and gives you no place to relax or get a few minutes rest in private. What makes this particularly irritating is that it is not a closed teacher’s lounge; sales people and students come through it to annoy you. There doesn’t seem to be anywhere to escape to, so if one is feeling exhausted from work one has no choice but to brave taking a walk in the terrible, terrible shopping center.
Well, there was one solution. THe roof of my school was accessable, and there was a bit of a garden there (though not much). It was something of a nice place to be, untill they fucked it all up.