My classmate, Emily, and I decided to explore the city by ourselves and travel by public bus to a flower exhibit somewhere in the city of ten million people. We hopped on the correct lu (路-bus number) and took a 45-minute bus ride to Shangzhi Park. I often forget how large Harbin is. I normally stay on-my campus and sometimes go off-campus to eat at a restaurant. So, while riding that bus, I looked at all the endless amount restaurants, shops, exercise areas, cars, and thought: what do the other 9,999,999 people do? I share this city with them, but I feel like it would take years to fully comprehend their (Harbin) culture and the atmosphere of Harbin’s neighborhoods and districts.
Today I had a taste of what average Harbiners do for fun on the weekends: go to Shangzhi Park’s Chrysthamum Exhibition.
The characters read: “The Golden Age of Chrysanthemum Fragrance–Harmonious XiangFang District
I was surprised at the amount of people that were at the park. Emily did not mention that there was an event, so the crowd caught me off guard. There were a lot of grandparents walking with their grandchild, young couples on a date, middle-aged couples either enjoying the flowers or playing cards–and then the two 老外 (laowai–foreigners). Since we were in a part of town that has very few foreigners, many Chinese asked for our picture, or just simply stared at us.
Grandfather watching his grandson playing on the river.
There was a group of middle-aged Chinese men and women ballroom dancing. Emily joined in.
This brought a lot of attention from the park’s visitors, especially when the man (pictured above) told the audience that we can speak Chinese. We first talked to about 10 Chinese men, and then the small group turned into a crowd of 50 or more people (mostly men). Older men are more confident when talking to foreigners, older women do not normally take the initiative to talk to me. At first it was fun hearing about what they thought Americans were like. We mainly talked about stereotypes, but they actually believe they’re true–everyone is obese, all Americans are smart, all Americans are not good-looking, etc. But then, the crowd surrounded us, everyone wanted to talk to the strange-Chinese-speaking foreigners. We talked for about 30 minutes and then left when we thought the crowd was getting too large.
We walked through the rest of the park and headed back home. It was a good day.
This is my favorite past time in China, just walking around and seeing the everyday life of the 老百姓 (laobaixing-one-hundred last names, average people). Though I enjoy going to tourist spots, like Zhongyang Street, I prefer walking through public parks and joining Chinese in singing, dancing, and playing games! I think this is one of the best ways to get to know a new city, lifestyle, and culture.