Day 103*: Wherever

Day 103--2 After 102 consecutive days of taking and posting a photograph the streak comes to an end. We arrived home last night after a week in Beijing and today’s gray, wet day was a perfect excuse to stay in the house, finish watching the last three episodes of this season’s House of Cards (dang, Frank Underwood!), take a nap and begin laying out our suitcases for next Sunday’s trip to the United States–a week in Seattle, nine nights in NYC, and a month in Boise with Hannah, Mike (lucky guy!) and soon-to-be granddaughter Mia Sharp.
This picture was taken this past week, in Beijing. In the mostly monotone environs of the hutongs–the walls, the roofs and the sky all covered in an ashen gray– this wall jumped out. And the inscription–“Wherever my parents go, that is my home.” really struck a cord with me, given the huge numbers of families that are split apart by the urbanization that is modern day China.

Day 101: Behind the Door

Abandoned building on the edge of s hutong, southwest of Tienanmen.

Abandoned building on the edge of s hutong, southwest of Tienanmen.

I wandered from the crowds in Tienanmen to the Soloist Coffee shop in a nearby hutong for a mug of the best coffee in Beijing. Afterwards, I zigged and zagged through the hutong, working my way south, avoiding the main commercial strip, when I happened upon this empty, old building.  The metal doors had a small, square opening on the left; I walked up the steps and peered in.

Here is what I saw:

Interior courtyard.

Interior courtyard.

 

 

This man appeared to be living in this old building; here he finishes shaving, checking his reflection in the dirty glass.

This man appeared to be living in this old building; here he finishes shaving, checking his reflection in the dirty glass.

Day Ninety-Nine: Mahjong

A mahjong game attracts some oberservers.

A mahjong game attracts some observers.

I borrowed a bicycle from the hotel and took a meandering 20 km ride around central Beijing, yesterday, despite an AQI of 250, in the “Very Unhealthy” range. The bad air isn’t really noticeable at street level, however there was quite a bit of pollen and petals from the Spring flowering trees swirling around and I did catch an occasional bug in my teeth. There was also a lot of construction & destruction taking places, small scale projects in many of the hutong neighborhoods I roamed, that added blowing dust and sand to the mix. The air quality aside, it was a glorious day to be about and about, sunny and unseasonably warm with temperatures reaching the mid 80’s (30 C). My original plan upon departing the hotel was to walk the 4 km to the Bell and Drum Towers, north of the Forbidden City, but when I exited the backside of the hotel I noticed a row of matching bicycles; the doorman informed me that they are available for guests, so I checked one out–complete with helmet and lock– and rode north. Much of the day was spent avoiding the main streets and commercial lanes of Beijing in general, focusing on exploring the side alleys of the hutongs. I did make it to the two ancient, MIng structures and they are impressive, but I didn’t bother entering, choosing instead to lock my bike and wander to surrounding hutongs by foot, where I discovered this cheerful group of resident playing a spirited game of mahjong.

Day Sixty-three: Disappearing Hutongs

Day Sixty-three-6681 Beijing’s hutongs are disappearing at an alarming rate, replaced by luxury malls, office buildings and apartment complexes. And while the loss of these historic neighborhoods are mourned by some, and no doubt their disappearance also takes with them a way of life, they are old and crumbling–substandard housing we would call them in the USA.
This hutong is southeast of Tianenmen and I headed there after watching the flag lowering ceremony in the square. It was dark by the time I found it and there was minimal light on most of the narrow alleys. I was looking for a way out of the neighborhood when I noticed a red glow a couple of blocks to my south, so I worked my way toward it and discovered this lone sign advertising the location of a traditional Peking Duck restaurant. A literal red light district.

Just about a mile northwest of this spot the National People’s Congress is convening on Wednesday for a 10 day meeting; according to news reports, 80 of the politically connected representatives in attendance are billionaires. With a ‘B’