Tag Archives: Neighborhood 小区

Two Lumps of Tofu

The AlleyOnce a week, Owen wakes up and gets really close to my face, grinning wildly. I say, “Good morning!” and he says, “Tofu. Tofu! TOFU!” And I know it’s a tofu day. We get our faces on (this involves coffee for me and a diaper change for him) and head down the nearest alley. We walk under the clotheslines, strung from crumbling walls, heavy with the thick winter wear of people who live in unheated spaces.

Maybe it is washing day, in which case the shared washing machine is out in the alleyway, lid-less and spinning the neighborhood’s underwear together. Groups of people work together to sort recycling (boxes stacked flat, ten feet high, and placed on the back of a motorbike, then carted slowly and precariously off for the refund). Men step out of doorways to spit their morning toothpaste into the storm drains. Kids play with halves of toys: a car with two wheels, a yo-yo with one side. They stare and yell “Hello!” and we wave back. Continue reading


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Of New Adventures, Long-Sought Closure, and Tuk Tuk Drivers in the Rain

Yesterday it rained. Mid-morning, I endeavored to buy plane tickets for our summer trip. This involved a trip across town, and I knew it would be tricky to find a cab in the rain, so I donned my raincoat and my stubborn city face and headed out. In the ten minutes it took me to find a pedi-cab (essentially a motorized bike with rickshaw-like seating in the back, ranging in quality from okay to horrific but much more readily available than proper taxis), I was yelled at by no fewer than seven people that I should be carrying an umbrella. Continue reading


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A Day in the Life

Well, make that fifteen minutes. In the life of one very busy boy.

01 More Yogurt! 03 That's the good stuff 04 okay full

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Scenes of Hangzhou on the Cusp of Summer

Photo credit: Aunt JessI

My conversation with the fruit lady today went like this.

Me: “I’d like some kiwis.”
Fruit lady: “You don’t want kiwis. They’re not good.”
Me: “But I bought some the other day, and they were delicious!”
Fruit lady: “No, they’re not good. Buy something else. How about some crab apples?”
Me: “Mmm…I want kiwis. Four kiwis, please.”
[she puts three in a bag]
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Xiao Hu’s Mom May or May Not Have it Goin’ On

When we moved into our apartment nearly a year ago, we were happy to meet a baby just a little older than Owen, who was introduced to us as Xiao Hu (“little Hu,” a common way to call someone surnamed ‘Hu’ who’s younger than everyone else in the room). The woman who introduced him worked at the reception desk of our building. She was young, pretty, and endlessly loving towards the baby. Every time we saw them together, she was nuzzling him, or disciplining him, or helping him learn to walk. She and I shared the bond of new mothers, and we asked each other questions about the babies’ respective nap schedules, eating habits, and ability to communicate. I gave her a present for Xiao Hu’s first birthday (a soccer ball), and she gave me one for Owen’s (a box of Legos). All was well and good, and the burgeoning friendship between Owen and Xiao Hu made me happy. A Chinese friend with a sweet mom for me to talk to: awesome.

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The Grand Tour for Grand Ma

P1020753Two days ago, Owen woke up and discovered that his apartment now had a grandma and two aunts living in it.  Also, a few more toys than before.

After welcoming them (toys included) to Hangzhou, then eating some breakfast, pooping, and taking his morning nap, Owen took them out to the No. 6 Park to show them off. (The toys stayed home.)

Being a Monday morning, there were lots of other babies out in the park showing off their grandmas, too. Baby-to-baby, grandma-to-grandma, grandma-to-other baby, there was lots of sizing up.  But Owen and his grandma did really well.

Owen showed Grandma all his friends around the neighborhood, and together they made some new ones, too.  One of them said in English that Grandma looked so young, and then in Chinese, to Owen’s mom, that Owen must be cold.  Their last stop was the Muslim noodle shop, where Owen is somewhat of a regular, and the owners make the best knife-cut pulled noodles this side of Lanzhou.

All in all, it was a good introduction for everyone. Continue reading

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Everyday in the Park with Everyone

Spring has sprung. Okay, not quite. But the weather has gotten significantly nicer recently, and Owen and I have been spending a lot of time in the park across the street. It’s not much to write home about, really just a waypoint along the UNESCO World Heritage West Lake Scenic Area™. But #6 Gong Yuan (public park) is where it’s at for us these afternoons. Here is how it usually plays out.

We arrive, Owen (assisted by mom) walking/lurching where he pleases, which is usually straight to the bed of clovers. He proceeds to rip up as many as possible and stick his hands in the dirt as deeply as he can. Soon, we are approached by a grandma and her grandchild, for whom she is charged with caring during the day while the baby’s parents are at work. [Sidenote: going to the park with a young child here is like going to a bar already drunk: it’s extremely easy to meet people and get friendly, and there are no conversational barriers whatsoever.] Continue reading


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Leng Bu Leng, Part II

Tonight, after putting Owen to bed, I ventured out. Hangzhou is a party after dark any night of the week, and I like to get a feel for the city’s electricity, even if I’m only out to buy a decaf and get some air. Tonight, we needed fruit and Diet Coke (the former to ward off the winter blahs; the latter to fuel Nick’s furious paper-writing stint as the semester comes to a close).

I hadn’t changed my clothes after coming home from the gym, um, a few hours earlier (okay, gross, I know), so I kept my shorts on and threw on a fleece, reasoning that it wasn’t too chilly out. I was right: the night air barely qualified as brisk, and it felt good to be out of the house, alone. I took the long way, walking along the lake, where I briefly took in the ever-present (but always spectacular) fountain show (the water shot heavenward in time to a soaring rendition of the Blue Danube) and the less-than-awesome lasers-for-sale booth that tries to blind every passer-by with evil points of green light.

I arrived at the fruit stand in good spirits. The usual fruit sellers had gone home for the night, but the man and woman working there recognized me and asked, “Where’s your baby?” I told them he was asleep at home. Rapid-fire, the rest of our interaction went like this:

Man: Aren’t you afraid of the cold?

Me: No, I like the cold.

Woman: Really, you’re not cold?

Me: No, I’m okay. I like the cold.

Old man who appeared literally out of nowhere: You don’t fear the cold? That is GREAT! Shenti hao! (Literally translated, this means “good body,” but it also means “good health” and implies fortitude)

Me: (Giving the old man a double thumbs-up) Yeah! The cold is okay! I would like 5 oranges, please.

Man: You got it.

Old man: Shenti hao! Do you people eat beef?

Me: Huh?

Old Man: What do you all eat? Beef?

Me: Sometimes, but beef is a little expensive. We prefer eggs, or chicken.

Man and older man, conferring: Very true, beef is expensive. Eggs and chicken are good for you.

Older man (grinning broadly): Have a good night! Bye!

Me: See you later!

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