On my first day in Changchun I decided to do something, preferably outside and involving exercise. The only suggestion my guidebook had was the Puppet Emperor’s Palace. I knew that was something I wanted to do with Anders on Saturday when we could go together. The other option was Jingyue Lake. I didn’t have enough time to do that on Thursday so I made arrangements to do that on Friday. I asked the concierge what else there was to do, he suggested Nanhu Park. Nanhu Park (South Lake Park) is the largest park in Changchun and not quite 20 years old. I took a taxi, they’re so cheap it’s crazy not to. It was a very nice day, the sun was shining, and the temperature was about 45°.
I was dropped off at one of the gates and I just started to wander. There were about a dozen men flying kites. They were all old, the men not the kites. One man had his kite so high that I could barely see it and only knew he was flying one because he was holding a reel of string.
I heard what I thought were firecrackers when I arrived as well. I wondered who would be shooting off firecrackers at a park. As I made my way around I saw a man cracking his bullwhips. Uh-huh. Yeah, bullwhips. Don’t you think to yourself on a nice day that you’re gonna gather your whips, take them to the park, and crack them? Double fisted cracking too. He was enjoying himself though.
I heard all kinds of music. The Chinese have these little boombox-type things that are on a strap around their necks. I heard people humming or singing to the traditional music as they walked by. A man was playing a brass instrument, it looked like a clarinet/sax combo but it sounded so nice. The song he was playing must have been a familiar one because a woman sang it as she walked along. There was also a man singing traditional Chinese songs over a loud-speaker. He was fantastic. I sat and listened to him for a while . When he finished his set I gave him a quite applause, bow, and smile. I got an enthusiastic xiexie over the loudspeaker. It was sweet.
I walked all over the park and as I was taking a photo of a bridge an older man was coming down the steps and slipped and fell, right in front of me. I jumped to help him up. Fortunately he wasn’t hurt but he was muttering something in Mandarin and smiling and it was obvious he was glad for the help. Three women were watching the whole things and were all grins as well. I would have done it for anyone but the fact that I was not Chinese seemed to really make them happy.
I made it a point to say ni hao to anyone that caught my eye. I don’t mean as in handsome, but I did do that, I mean as in looked curious. Every single person returned it and most smiled! Not one person ignored it or turned away, like some other people who live in a certain country in Europe. When I ran in Switzerland I would purposely say hello to everyone I went past and keep a tally of how many I got in return. They failed miserably! I rarely had a success rate of over 20%. It’s refreshing to be in a country where people actually take the time to exchange a courtesy.
The grounds were spotless, the gardens were well-tended, the water was clean, and the sky was blue. Winter had definitely set in and most trees were bare but it was still beautiful.
When it came time to come home I had to flag down a taxi. It wasn’t that easy. I stood in what I thought was a good spot but not one even stopped. Let me tell you, there were a lot of taxis zipping by. So I moved a bit and while a few stopped they were not interested in taking me to my hotel. One driver motioned me to move on down the road so I did and still no takers. Remember the Met Andrew? It was like that only not pouring. Finally I gave in and asked someone if he spoke English and explained my problem. I thought perhaps I just wasn’t in a good spot or wasn’t on the right side of the road. I had no idea where I was in relation to the hotel. He too tried flagging them down, got some to stop, but even he couldn’t get anyone to take me. I thanked him and assured him that I would be OK and he could continue on his way but he stayed with me to the end. I ended up flagging down my own taxi but this man was so nice to wait with me. He didn’t leave until I got in the taxi. In the end it took about 25 minutes and the driver was a grump. Ben taught me how to tell someone where I want to go. This guy had seen the hotel card and knew where I was going but I thought I’d say it anyway. I was doing my part to show him that Americans can speak the language. He acted like he hadn’t heard me. I called him the Mandarin name in my head that I knew and I bet that if I had said THAT out loud he would have acknowledged me!
The afternoon was in a word – perfect!
3PM – 80°