After the excitement and chaos of the Dongmen Road, a more sedate way to spend a weekend was in order. Following a Saturday spent watching dancing aunts and kites at Lizhi Park (see Paul’s blog from September- to get an idea of park life in the city) we decided to take a walk along the seafront. Metro line 11 (the black one) brings you to Houhai, in the Nanshan district right next to Shenzhen Bay sports arena, and from there it is a short walk to the seafront. At least it would be a short walk if all roads were open. The area of Shenzhen is developing at a massive rate and as such it’s hard to go anywhere and not see construction happening.
Huge plots of land are constantly being sought after, developed and built upon. Our route to the seafront took us past swathes of construction workers downing their tools in search of a midday meal – cue numerous snack vans adorning the side of the road, and impromptu picnics from men in high vis jackets. Did this spoil our enjoyment at all? – on the contrary, this people watching gave us another dimension of life in this fantastic place. We finally made our way on to the path to the seafront after following the few people we spotted minus the high vis jackets take a left.
We had done this walk over 2 months ago, at the end of our first week in China. This time round we still had the heat, the (almost) clear blue skies, and far less of the humidity that August brings with it. The route takes us past various statues, and for a while we reminisced about Yorkshire Sculpture Park and life back home. What will it be like for us when we take our first trip back next summer? How will the schools compare? What will we tell our friends and family back home? What are our highlights so far? This conversation was of course littered with ‘Can you believe we actually did it?’, ‘Look at all this – it’s mad to think we’re here- in China- 6000 miles away from everything and everyone we we know,’ and the big question, ‘Is life better, worse, or just different?’ To which our answers usually sway towards better or just different (except on the occasion that I braved a local hairdresser and left in tears after I had my hair stripped of blond highlights and absolutely ruined- it was most definitely a worse response that day – give it another month and it might have recovered enough to be dyed back to a blonder blonde) Of course, life is very different and it goes without saying that we miss people enormously. But, the adventures that we are having and the experiences we are immersed in day to day are pretty incredible – so to anybody thinking about making a drastic lifestyle change and perhaps moving half way across the world to a culture so far removed from what you are used to – just do it. Technology nowadays means that the world is a very small place, and the conversations over FaceTime to those we miss and love, are filled with funny little little stories from our side of the world, usually about things getting lost in translation, to cat updates (thanks Audrey), excitement about children’s sporting prowess (the kids are doing great Pip!) and updates on dad’s vision (at least you won’t have to have another operation as bad as that one again Captain Birdseye!)
The conversation drifts and meanders and it would be hard to recall everything talked about. What is easy to recall, is the ease with which we converse and the enjoyment we get as a family, being able to just hop on a metro, go anywhere we want to, and enjoy the company of each other.
Although the sea is not a sparkling blue, and the sky has a slight fog as you look over to Hong Kong, the day is bright and hot. Along the path, trees reach up, supported by scaffolds. This is a new route, and the trees themselves were grown and transported from elsewhere. A city still in its infancy, and it shows. I wonder how long before the roots are established and the supports can be taken away?
The pathways alternate between block paving, decking, and large concrete stepping stones across the elephant grass along the side. For the most part we were exposed to the midday sun, so we sought shelter in and amongst the trees, interspersed with stretches out in the open along the seafront. Another key difference between doing the walk at the end of October as opposed to August were the smells we came across. Today, the overriding aroma was of seaweed, whereas a couple of months ago, at points the smell of sewage was a touch overwhelming.
4.5 miles later and we reached our destination- OCT harbour. A new and built up area, with various upmarket eateries and music being pumped through the shrubbery (Suzanne, this is a place for you.) The sidewalk takes you across various miniature bridges, and the planters attached to the low level fencing provide splashes of colour at ground level, whilst pink blossom trees provide further colour against the blue sky. We stopped off for a drink at a pudding shop, and I had a concoction consisting of coconut milk (delicious), red beans (weird) and sone kind of liquorice jelly (I left all of those bits.)
Before heading back on the metro, we watched the fountains dance beneath the orange constructed metal trees. Children ran through the water as the fountains chased from right to left. Parents watched from the side as the trousers, skirts, socks and shoes of their offspring changed to a deeper colour the wetter they got. Laughter told us that the damp clothing was not an issue, as challenging the water to battle (that they were destined to lose) was far more fun than watching passively from the side. After observing for a short while, we thought we’d worked out the pattern the water followed . Hmmm … not at all! Why we decided that the best route was directly across the fountains I have no idea. It was a very soggy family of three that rode the journey home!