This may come as a shock to many, but not all Chinese cities are flashing metropolises like Shanghai or Beijing, or cultural palaces like Xi’an or Lijiang. I live in a city called Changchun, as you may have gathered from the title of this blog, the largest city in the North-eastern province of…
This one time, in China, I saw a chipmunk in a park. It was really exciting.
And that, in a nutshell, is the difference between my home country and my adopted country.
I’M GOING HOME!
…which means I have to buy gifts for people, which is the worst part of living abroad. This isn’t [only] because I’m cheap: it’s because I’m never sure what to get.
I’m writing this in advance, to automatically publish after I’m already home because I really love the gifts I got for my mom and dad. There’s an antique market in a department store in Changchun that is terribly overpriced, but on the floor above it there are people selling paint brushes, paper and other art supplies. There are also a couple of painters, including this charming old man. He’s a semi-renowned local artist and paints the most beautiful pictures, none of which would match what passes for ‘decor’ at my home in Zimbabwe.
However, if for example, you trawl the internet for pictures of your parents favourite animals and get them printed, and in your pigeon Chinese ask him to paint those, he will! And they’re lovely.
汽车厂 [Qìchē chǎng - Car Factory]
The first Chinese cars and tractors were manufactured in Changchun, and the city still produces a significant portion of the cars made in China. A huge area of the city is taken up by the FAW factory, which designs and produces its own cars, and also works in partnership with Audi, VW, and Toyota.
Last Thursday I went on a bus adventure with a friend to the car district. I’d seen a pretty looking park from a van window a few days before, and I wanted to get a closer look. We got on the first bus heading in approximately the right direction and got off at the first interesting looking building. We walked towards it while discussing our views on architecture and other subjects of which we knew nothing.
Then we crossed the street to look at a monument-looking place. The handy translator on my phone informed us that it was the car factory on which this city’s economy is based. There were guards, and a boom across the gate, but to their left was a wide open door through which we nonchalantly strolled. We wandered up a lovely tree-lined street, lined with beautiful buildings, poking our heads through the doors of vast factories. No one ever questioned our camera-toting, hard-hat-not-wearing, presence. Then we walked out the way we’d come, and went to find the pretty park.
China’s weird like that.
A couple nights ago my friend (who is easily confused by exchange rates) kept talking about some ₤200,000 cake she’d allegedly seen. That’s two million yuan, so I somewhat doubted her word. She took me to the store to see it for myself and yes. It is in fact a monstrous swan-studded confectionery that will be delivered to your wedding (or similar good-taste-free event) in a Rolls.
And if you don’t love your loved one quite enough to shell out that sort of moolah, then there is a much smaller version for just 899元.
I have inadvertently taken ownership of a kitten. He wreaks havoc on my belongings and lifestyle even as the vet continues to bleed me dry and predict his (the kitten’s) impending death from multiple obscure and symptomless conditions.
Anyone want a kitten? He probably won’t die.
Changchun, Jilin, China
From the 26th floor of Xinhua Bank, corner of Renmin Da Jie and Ziyou Da Lu.
I totally went through the front door of a bank, marched purposefully past the security desk and into the first available elevator. I faked interest in the fifteenth floor, then switch transporters and rode it ALL THE WAY TO THE TOP. Once there, I secretly took covert pictures of the surrounding cityscape as evidence of my bad-assery.