Friday, August 26, 2011

Happy woman living town

Lina and I have been living in Yongchuan, Chongqing Province, China for 2 whole days now so it’s about time I had something to say about it.  The journey here was long but went very smoothly even with our vast amount of cycling and hiking gear in tow.  We have Dave to thank for getting us to the airport with very minimal faff and Dave and Ger for giving us a place to live in our last week in Vancouver (for a while).  Our last week was a whirlwind of last-minute chores and cramming as much fun as possible into 5 days.  The weather co-operated and we were able to get out mountain biking, running, food eating, dog walking, and beer drinking (thanks to Paul and Angie for the great leaving party!)  We also volunteered to help flag the course for a 5 Peaks Trail Run at Whistler.  It was great to get up into the mountains of BC one more time before we left and I think the runners were in for a treat, the course was fantastic (and of course superbly flagged).

A handstand in BC
Then all too soon, Monday arrived and it was time to leave for our temporary new lives.  Lina and I are now both teachers at a High School in the middle of China and residents of Yongchuan, a “small town” of 1 million people about 70 km away from Chongqing; one of the “Three Furnaces” of China.  We are attracting a lot of attention as 2 of less than 50 non-Chinese in the town.  Old people stare at us in amazement and small children wave as say “Hello!”  Though we’ve yet to teach anyone anything, the kids in summer school have been very curious and friendly towards us and I am optimistic that they will be great to have in our classes.  My ability to teach them English remains to be explored, but I’m sure I’ll get the hang of it.

Yongchuan was based around coal mining but is undergoing incredible development as a town for education.  New schools, universities, and all the accommodation and entertainments that go along with them are appearing at a rate that is hard for me to comprehend.  Though we’ve not had much chance to explore yet we have managed to get out for a run and will be buying some bikes soon to help us get around.  The local style seems to be to ride with a construction hard-hat (optional) and umbrella, plus as many children and vegetables as possible… whilst smoking.  I need to get onto that bandwagon.

A handstand in YC
Yongchuan is hardly an outdoor enthusiasts paradise as it’s currently well over 30 degrees and humid, but we don’t plan on letting that stop us from getting outside.  This afternoon I discovered the Olympic Stadium swimming pool has water in it, so we need to figure out if that means we can swim there.  I also discovered a park with a sandpit and some giant plastic gnomes.  Both this and another park which contains some talking mushrooms and tree-stumps have weird municipal exercise machines concreted into the ground.  Then of course there’s the rollerblading to music and municipal line-dancing in Peope’s Square at night.  I’m planning on developing some urban running routes which join my favourite Yongchuan oddities as a kind of athletic treasure-hunt.  Trust me, it’s the future.

Can you spot the following: construction, a topiary giraffe, and a plastic gnome.
On top of this wealth of fun, there are also some tantalizing hills lurking in the mist just outside town which we will have to explore when we have our pedal-powered wheels.  For now though, we are content that we are living in a town that is both “Livable” and “Smooth”, plus a “Happy woman living town”.  No more needs to be said.

Yesterday we visited the big city of 30 million people in Chongqing. We didn't have much time to look around, but were treated to an unexpected underground Chinese robo-pirate disco (a lot of flashing lights and robot pirates in a concrete cave) and an exciting dirt-road drive home as the highway was closed. Though it's noisy and busy, I am looking forward to visiting Chongqing again and exploring away from the tourist areas. I've read there are some traditional old wooden buildings attached to the cliffs in one part of town which I would love to see. For now, here are some photos: