Friday, February 27, 2009

Dragons and hamburgers

Five Dragon Park 6

Went out to explore the city today and ended up in a beautiful park. Jinan is known for its natural springs, and I saw several of them today. Signs around them tell visitors that it's a poor idea to take the murky, muddy water from the spring pools and put it in bottles to take home, since that's apparently a thing people do.

The park is right downtown, surrounded by tall, nondescript city buildings, but inside the park is all traditional architecture, low pagodas festooned with stone dragons. Amanda (Ben's wife, who is Chinese) ran her hand along the painted decorations and said, "I wish I lived in a time when it was all like this." In her own lifetime, she has seen so much of old China razed and replaced with modern Western building, and it saddens her. "In a hundred years, no one will know what makes China special," she said.

In Beijing a couple days ago, the airport terminal I flew into and a good chunk of the highway from the airport to the city were all brand new. Neither the terminal nor the strips of hotels and apartment high rises were there before the Olympics. They sprung up nearly overnight, a cookie cutter facade to a crumbling national edifice. In Jinan, half the city has been torn down in the past few months in preparation for some other big sports event happening in August. By the end of the summer, the endless blocks of rubble and turned earth will turn into shiny new buildings, which will in turn crumble and peel until they are replaced with something else.

I look forward to revisiting that park as its vegetation wakes up with the spring. It will be a nice place to sit and write.

Five Dragon Park 2

On a different note, we passed many street food vendors today, and I kept asking Amanda what they were selling. One stand had some weird looking sandwiches with bread that looked like cream puffs and filling that looked like fried chicken. I asked what they were, and she started laughing at me. "They're hamburgers! Aren't you American?"

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