Thursday, September 30, 2010

Off the reservation

As I was biking home from Thomas' school last Wednesday -- well, it is Simon's school too, but he was sick at home with a sniffle and a cough -- it occurred to me that you, dearest reader, have not seen much of the world around me at all.

I won't be able to show you everything all at once, but at least I can show you a couple shots I took after I visited Thomas and biked home. I used a bit of a detour to get home, but it does pretty much show you what I see here outside our "villa compound" (a new friend calls it "the reservation") every day. So we'll start with Thomas' school building and -- SPOILER ALERT -- end with me picking him up at the bus stop at Beijing Riviera again in the afternoon.

[ may ask, why was I at the school but Thomas did not come with me? Well, on Wednesdays he would only have a half-day of school if it wasn't for his parents who signed the poor boy up for an afternoon of Dutch language games and fun. Thomas thinks these days are a bit long though and wants to go home with his class mates at noon. So I went over to the school to cheer him up by having lunch with him. Simon happened to be sick(ish) at home that day, but he was in our ayi's more-than-capable hands, which left me some time to snap some pictures for you!)

Hold on tight... here comes:

On the top right: My favorite statue. This boy is standing in a lovely garden in between the Elementary School where Simon goes and the Early Childhood Center (ECC) building where Thomas spends his school hours. Both buildings are on the campus of the Western Academy of Beijing.

Below: The ECC building. Thomas' classroom is inside. He comes out this door to walk to the main Elementary School building to go to the library, swimming, or other activities, or go towards the busses to go home.

A big street. What else to say? Boring you say? Well, it's just a very typical view, so that's why I included it.

Another typical view. There are these walls everywhere -- sometimes pretty, sometimes run down or just plain ugly. But the funny thing is that those walls tell you little about what might be behind them. I've been to places where you wondered why you would even step through the door, only to end up in a big and beautifully-decorated store or restaurant.

Traffic sign - pretty self-explanatory. :-)

Another big crossing. Just cross with the right attitude and cars will stop.

Bike path. This car swirls around me and goes back onto the "bike lane" after he passes me. Cars use the emergency and bike lanes all the time - actually, they pretty much use any open part of the road, no matter what the official lanes might be. On the upside though: I do find because of this mad-driving, everyone really pays attention. In the U.S. I felt people were driving asleep - never checking their mirrors, just cruising along in the same old left lane. But here, cars zig zag all the time, bikes are everywhere, and cars can turn right from the second (!) lane over. So you simply have to pay attention and it looks like people do.

"Homeware Lifestyle Village". This is really close to my house and I've come here twice for coffee now. Homewares are yet to be seen.

Simon said: "This lion is sad". Well, if you are at the "Home Lifestyle Village" and your cousins are at the Emperor's Palace, would you not be sad?

Ten meters after the sad lion you can buy kites.

Forty meters after the kites you can buy a Volkswagen.

All this fun stuff (kites, Volkswagen, sad lion) is happening along Jingmi Lu (lu means "road"). Jingmi Lu is a big and busy street that goes farther out into the suburbs and also runs all the way to the center of Beijing. I've sometimes taken it the whole way, but it is such an ongoing traffic jam in the mornings that it's much easier to pay the 8 RMB toll and take the airport express highway to the city center. We're currently outside the city's metro system -- but not for long! See the note below.

Jing Mi Lu street sign

From Jingmi Lu, I turn left onto Xiang Jiang Bei lu. That's where I put on my sunglasses (if not already wearing them) against the dust...

...because Xiang Jiang Bei lu is just an open construction zone. They are always working on the road and also building a brand new metro line. One station is going to be right here, super close to my house -- I am so excited! For the Washingtonians: Remember the purple line? Apparently here, nobody even knew the metro line was coming. One day a year ago, construction simply began and now they are talking about opening it in a few months.

More metro line construction on Xiang Jiang Bei lu. And behind where I am standing is a gas station with a lady who was selling flowers and plants. I stopped to look and ended up buying four plants for the house.

The plant lady put all the plants (some much bigger than the one shown in the picture) on her motorized bike and we biked the last bit together to my house.

At home I find a (not-so-sick-anymore) pirate. Arrrr!

Simon snaps a picture of his mom counting till two.

Then, at 15:30 (3:30pm), it's time to make the 40-second walk to the bus stop, to pick up Thomas.

Bus is coming!

-- THE END --

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