Economic-Development Zone Bike Tour

We have been living in Huadong, a suburb of Qingdao on the bay letting out to the sea –officially an “economic development zone.” I’ve been all over China and have never seen this many skyscraper apartments going up. Mile after mile, some super-fancy with the German-esque follies/details (red rooves, cottage brown stripes) that reference Qingdao’s German colonial past. It’s also home (slightly inland) to massive factory after factory campus, including Haier, which I think makes large appliances like air conditioners.

“Development” means factories, in my students’ argot. Development in my lingo means things like health, education, as well as infrastructure. Here it really doesn’t have that overtone of human development.

SO we took an economic development zone bike tour along the coast, where landscaping of flowering trees, promenades(including a “movie star walk of fame) and exercise machines stretch for miles. s the zone hasn’t finished developing — the buildings are mostly empty, my university only opened this campus a couple of years ago — it’s totally empty. On the horizon are ships and factory stacks. And along the coast,  clammers and fishermen with nets.

fisherman boatsclammers in the smog

God forbid eating shellfish here; sorry, Qingdao. It goes on and on; we’re not the fastest riders but not slow either and this is two hours’ riding  — it just doesn’t stop.

Here’s what it looks like.

Kenny on Huangdao Promenade

Kenny on Huangdao Promenade

mod swervy buildings

keny and buildings

Rent-a-tandem (we didn't)

Rent-a-tandem (we didn’t)

weird red landscaping

An American Boy in China (watch video)

Adventures of a third grader in Beijing for a year. All about having fun in China, the land and its geography, history and politics, and visiting China’s different regions and peoples. Do shadow puppetry, ride a camel in the Gobi, make dumplings on a farm, and cheer for the Guoan (World Peace) soccer team.

Chaoyang Birthday

Look at that haze: Air Quality Index: 200+


Super-hot bad air day for the rescheduled 9th birthday party. Thunder storm with lightning held off until an hour after. Chaoyang Park, ‘Beijing’s Central Park,’ has forest trails, boat rentals, sand beach, science museum…and amusement park. We had a suitcase of food, & donuts because anything frosted would melt.

Meeting place: Mod weird south gate


The adorable boys are from England, China, Australia, and Mexico. Some don’t like the feeling of g-force, some aren’t tall enough for the big rides. We tried to compromise to do most rides together.

…like a smaller roller coaster…

Everyone likes bumper cars…

Rides are embossed prominently, “Made in China.”

The Classic Flying Swing

Bless Andy’s mom Sai for coming, she made runs for bottled water, we went through more than 30; herded them from behind, and got group discounts by bargaining in Chinese at the ticket booths. They’re adorable and Ethan’s going to miss them. Stay in touch, please, Rowan, Riley, Max, and Andy, wherever in the world your families go!

Third grade buddies, Chaoyang Park, Beijing.

Ethan will miss you guys.

Yellow River of Sorrows

Lanzhou

Earlier spring, we were in Lanzhou, out West, Gansu province, upper reaches of the Yellow River–China’s second longest, after the Yangtze. It is, I read, China’s river of sorrow, for its history of horrific floods, some of history’s deadliest natural disasters.

Taoist fortunetellers, Lanzhou

In a 50-year period between 1887 and 1931, Yellow River floods killed an estimated seven million people, including in epidemics that followed.

Lanzhou’s famous beef noodles

Notoriously, during the second Sino-Japanese War, Chiang Kai-Shek’s Nationalists created a man-made Yellow River flood (not here but to the east) to halt the enemy advance, killing perhaps a million Chinese people and no one knows how many Japanese soldiers.

Lanzhou

The floods’ cause (in part) is in the name: the “yellow” is silt, from a fine, easily eroding rock (loess) that collects and raises the river till it spills over. (Loess is finer than sand, carried by wind, mostly quartz, highly subject to erosion.) We called that beige stuff “Gobi sand” and it got in our eyes, packed into our ears, and had to be dumped out of pockets and bags for days. OK, it was sandstorm season. But never have I seen a dustier place than Lanzhou. Not inches of dust, but piles a foot high in the dustpan after people swept. Mounds collecting indoors in room corners, outdoors against buildings, streets.

Lanzhou: Muslim community

The river’s not so “yellow”– more brown. Industrial waste has rendered it (source: UN) unfit for drinking and also for agricultural and even for industrial use.

These inflated sheep carcasses keep afloat rafts that locals and visitors hire (with a driver) for fun, to float along the Yellow’s filthy length. We did not partake. It made me sick to look at them.

This blog has attracted a VERY nice American follower who lives in Langzhou and I apologize, Dave, but in spite of the cool provincial museum (home to the famous, iconic bronze horse, one of the best archaeological treasures, almost thrown into a smelter during the Cultural Revolution), the awesome hand-uplled beef noodles(flavored with cinnamon & star anise as well as ginger and cilantro) and several active temples & mosques, I do not hope to return to Lanzhou.

Old Street, Lanzhou

And the Yellow River, past and present, made me sad.

Mosque-on-a-boat? Yellow River

Working Bikes of Beijing

Visiting one of the hutong areas, working bikes everywhere.

Ferrying plants.


(David left me his groovy mt. bike, but if I go down, there’s no one else here for the kids. It kills me not to ride…though outside the hutong, Beijing isn’t a biking city anymore. Cars, cars, cars – & lots of motorized scooters.)

They carried old TVs…


…books and tourists…

Hutong McDonald’s delivery…


And babies. Even in 2012 Beijing the hutong (what’s left of them) remain bike-friendly, even bike-dominated.

This photomural of Tiananmen is in a museum gift shop.

Here’s another kind of transportation…a spring week-end, Ethan drives a (slow) battery-powered boat on Houhai Lake, beside the hutong. Putting a child behind the wheel elicited frowns from other boating parents!