Yizhuang revisited

June 19th, 2007

I hate having to go out to Yizhuang every Monday evening. It’s not just the awkward timing of it, nor is it just the mediocre students. It’s Yizhuang as a whole.

Now I’d be the first to admit that my experience of Yizhuang is extremely limited. Limited to a few rooms in one building, the views from that building, and the views from the car window as we arrive and leave. Certainly not enough to speak with any authority on the subject. But enough, perhaps, to get an impression.

And that impression is of overwhelming emptiness. I don’t know why. On the way in and back out everything is built up, there’s traffic, the roads, although some of them are undergoing repairs, have obviously been there a while. But still the place feels empty to me.

Maybe it’s because most of the buildings I see are commercial or industrial. Or maybe because it’s the view from the conference room where I give the lesson. Or maybe it’s the lack of pedestrian or cycle traffic.

The conference room is on the 13th floor Floor A. Small tangent on the subject of pandering to superstition: The building has a fourth floor, but floors 13 and 14 have been renamed A and B. No, I don’t understand that decision, either, and asking the students about it got only confused nonsense.

Right, back to that view. Looking out the conference room windows on the 13th floor Floor A, the streets are laid out in a regular grid pattern, only broken by a few odd roads here and there. To the left is a construction site. Immediately below is the car park, and in front of that is an empty field. In one corner of the field is a small yard filled with construction…. stuff. Materials, equipment, just stuff. To the right of the carpark is a similar yard, but this one with a few shacks in it, some like the kitset shantytown that is nearly finished just outside our gate here, others an older style, made out of what seems to be the same asbestos shingles Roubaozi and I helped put on the sheep pen back at May Day. Beyond that is a reasonably nice looking housing development. But the next couple of blocks, directly ahead and diagonally ahead to the left and right (in front of the construction site and the housing development) is all empty fields. Beyond the fields, in all directions, are the usual commercial and industrial buildings, construction sites, and a few housing developments. Most of the construction sites are for more commercial and industrial buildings.

So maybe the emptiness has something to do with the apparent lack of any real city life. There are a few residential areas, but not much, and I haven’t seen much in the way of the usual city life-level commerce, like restaurants and supermarkets and all the myriad little stores, to support those areas. A little, but not a hell of a lot. And what about children? I arrive in Yizhuang about five in the evening, and yet I never see the hordes of school children you’d expect to see about that time.

Anyway, so far as I know I only have one more trip to Yizhuang next Monday and then I’m free. Can’t say I’ll be sorry to see the back of the place.

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