Friday, March 30, 2007

Public Backyards

Parks are wonderful havens for people watching and culture here. I suppose it is no different than Central Park in Manhattan, or any park in a big city. The parks serve as people’s backyards. And, in such a modern city parks give a foreigner a window to an older, deeper culture here. I have visited most of the parks in this city, enough to notice a few trends. Under all the trees are heavily trodden areas, which are evidence of some one’s favorite place to practice morning Tai Chi. If you wander there early enough, (as the weather warms that is) you see hundreds of people practicing Tai Chi and other martial arts….swords and all! Some older men bring their songbirds in cages to the park.

Later in the afternoon parks become meeting places for Chinese Poker. I don’t really know the name of this game, but it is really fun to watch. There will be a group of 100 people (usually old but some young also) gathered in a big mass Groups of four play while at least triple that are standing around watching each game. Players throw their cards down in sets of threes and fours to make a smacking sound when the cards hit the table or bench. Then there are mutterings and people stand up and wave their arms and yell until someone else smacks down something that beats it. It’s quite the serious game. In general I love observing older Chinese folks. I cannot help but think about how much they have seen this country change, both in ideology and in infrastructure during their lifetimes.

I finally found a park with some joggers and went to jog there myself for the first time. While I was not alone, I was the only female jogger, although I expected this. While it was nice to move my legs a bit, I did feel like I was doing a disproportionate amount of work to filter the Dalian air through my lungs as the average park go-er there. Not sure what the effects of pumping coal thick air through the lungs will be.

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