That’s a mouthful, isn’t it? Not to worry – these were just some pretty roads that we went to on Sunday. The week before we had gone to Hosa Fitness where we met the lovely Xiao Feng, a trainer there. Xiao Feng is an excitable young woman in her early 20s – prone to fits of giggling, but an extremely warm person who had offered to take us around in Chengdu. Keen to move around with the Chinese as much as possible (it’s invaluable free tutoring), we were delighted.
Having declined Yoke’s invitation to accompany him and Sophie to Leshan, we decided instead to spend Sunday taking up Xiao Feng on her invitation. She is free from her work at the gym between 1pm and 6pm. After the obligatory purchases at Ren Ren La, we met her in front of Hosa Fitness. In between, I was horrified to see bananas (the small ones we call elakki in India) priced at RMB44. At least Rs200 for a dozen. Phew! Xiao Feng wants to take us to Renmin Park. But we tell her we have already been there. So it is Chunxi Lu instead. “What do you want to buy there?” she asks. “Nothing,” I tell her. And even if I wanted to, I wouldn’t have. Chunxi Lu is a brand lovers’ paradise. What I like about these “roads” is that they are pedestrian only. Unlike Brigade Road or Commercial Road, which is clogged with vehicles, many of these pedestrian streets are just for pedestrians. And for the police, and the army. Police vans are everywhere, and the Army keeps marching up and down. I ask Xiao Feng if she knows the reason why there are so many police. “It’s just for our security,” she says cheerfully. We all know the reason why, of course, and I can’t help but feel the government here is a bit paranoid. Let the Xiao Fengs in China think of their presence as security…and maybe it is good to have so many police. Except that it is eerie when I see one policeman swoop down on me, and peer into my screen while I am taking a photo. I move away quickly from the scene. It was an entirely innocent scene – I was just taking a photo of this woman here:
I moved away from the Armanis and Louis Vitton’s and all those brands that people seem to want to spend a whole lot of money for. I couldn’t see many Chinese shopping here though. Perhaps, they too like us were just window shopping.
From there on, in a long long walk, Xiao Feng took us to Kuangzai Xiangzi. Much like Jinli Street, which we had explored the previous week, but with a little more charm. Kuangzai is a very obvious reconstruction of a narrow Chinese alley from all those centuries ago. Pricey and obviously catering to the upper classes, we wandered around. In between, Birdy tried these little sweet things. Sprinkled with sesame and deep-fried, I can’t say I liked the taste all too much.
There were bars of every kind, tea houses, ice cream bars. All required a lot more RMB than we could afford. I am sure that it must be an entirely different atmosphere in the night, but that must wait another day. As we took the bus, and then later bid goodbye to Xiao Feng, twilight was just about to set in. The skies seemed laden with rain, and reaching home I did what I seem to do most of the time these days – study. Lessons go at a frightening pace, and you are barely given time to review what you have learned before you have to learn something else. I am not sure that is entirely the best way to learn one of the most difficult languages in the world. But as a Czech guy we met in the earlier B1 class keeps saying : It’s a challenge! And a challenge it certainly is. I feel that learning Chinese is a bit like running a marathon…except that there is no finish line.