Winding Down in China

Our time here is winding down. We have moved out of our big American style house in the burbs. All of our stuff is being shipped to Seattle. Now we are staying in a super cool apartment/hotel downtown. When we moved to Beijing two years ago, we stayed here, so it feels like coming full circle.  My nephew Lucas is with us, and the boys have been enjoying camps, swimming and cartoons. I love waking up and seeing my favorite park in the city, Tuanjiehu, ringed with high-rise apartments and construction cranes fading into the distance. At night before bed, I look down from the 25th story, spying on locals down below: groups of folks sit together on low stools, fanning themselves and swapping stories, workers laying concrete and operating backhoes into the late night, young adults going to or fro the bright lights of the businesses around the corner.
Walking through this neighborhood takes us past Chinese fast food vendors doing brisk business selling deep fried hotdogs or fresh peaches. Around the corner, a lively side street features an elegant Muslim chain restaurant serving cumin lamb and veal salad. Next door, kebabs to-go grill outdoors. Small eateries  bust out plastic tables and chairs so locals can feast al fresco on peanuts, Tsingtao, kebabs or salty pork ribs.  Small dogs get their stroll about.  Meandering further on, we find ourselves in ever popular Sanlitun bar street, and the newest hippest shopping center: glitzy modern architecture and Western shops–Starbucks, Apple, Adidas—incandescent with commerce and colored glass. There’s room for local families to watch their kids play in the fountains, catch some big screen video art installation, sculpture and people watch. Migrant workers amble through, hardhats in hand, past Chinese yuppies, shopping bags in tow. Party people from all corners of the world parade along in too-sexy looks.
A different scene we find in the park across the street from our place.    We cross a pedestrian bridge over about 13 lanes of traffic to quite a relatively pastoral world: a lake, park benches, rock gardens, bamboo forests and tree covered hills. There’s always a few people playing instruments. Yesterday a guy played lovely traditional melodies on his trumpet. An old man hooked up his harmonica to an amp. Often we hear classical wind or string instrument hauntingly drifting across the water. Towards one of the gates, the ubiquitous calligraphy artist scribes ephemeral poems with a huge brush using only water onto the concrete.  Sometimes community leaders come out and lead people in song or dance. Lately it’s been pretty hot, so when we go out late afternoon or early evening, I find other families out with their little boys running around.
Our friends, the Javal family from Paris, have just arrived and we are really excited to be going on vacation for three weeks with them. Chengdu, Lhasa, Guilin and Hong Kong. Then, back to Beijing for one last goodbye.
Two years….not exactly a fling. This is tough.