Well, I got my ticket to ride. Barring any major mishaps, I’ll be winging my way to California on June 23rd. If anybody wants something from China, let me know. I’ll be bringing myself some traditional Tianjin Mahua, courtesy of a former student, and some aged Shanxi vinegar, courtesy of the local Carrefour supermarket.  And also some Thai and Indian curry paste, courtesy of a local import food store.

Jingye Lake
Jingye Lake

Yes, things are changing. I took the picture at right three years ago in April, as the leaves were just budding out from the willows along the shores of Jingye Lake.

Jingye Lake is an artificial Lake, like probably all the lakes in Tianjin, let alone the rivers. “Jingye” means “dedication and commitment.”  I’m sure the students are inspired whenever they pass by.

Jingye Lake
Jingye Lake

Anyway, I recently took another picture from the same spot. Can you detect any differences in the view — other than the fully-fledged willow trees, I mean?

Changes are also happening by our apartment block. A bank of mailboxes was recently nailed to the wall by our door, so maybe by next fall we’ll all get new mailing addresses that bypass the “International cooperation” office.  I know that the mailbox keys lay somewhere in our building, but we haven’t received them yet.

The New Mailboxes
The New Mailboxes

This picture shows the workmen installing the boxes, all except the supervisors and inspectors, that is.

To be fair, though, those metal mailboxes looked pretty heavy.  All these guys save one held it up in place, while the last guy, working with a compressed-air drill, screwed it onto the wall.

What I’m hoping for, really, though, is a normal building number so that the mailmen and deliverymen can easily find our address.

Walking out through the bike barrier
Walking out through the bike barrier

A gated development like ours is called a  小区 (xiǎo qū).  小 means “small,”and 区 means “a geographical area.” So together they make “small geographical area.” I guess the fences, gates, and other barriers go without saying.

The picture are right is taken along a fence, so you can’t see the fence itself, but you can see the bike barrier, placed so pedestrians can weave their way through the fence while bicyclists have to struggle.

Actually, though, bicyclists have gotten amazingly skilled at tipping the front wheel up in the air like a rearing mustang, and then wheeling the bike through the curves like some sort of reversible unicycle.

On the side of that building, about 15 feet off the ground appears a small red-white-and-blue sign.  It contains the 小区 name and the building number.   Each row of buildings stands in numerical sequence.  The arrangement is quite convenient to navigate. In fact, about 99.9% of 小区  apartment blocks  in the city  have signs just like that one – the same size, shape, color, and everything.  Deliverymen know just what to look for to make their deliveries.

Except for our building. Our building has no number, just a name, and the tiny bronze sign is placed by the entranceway, to the right of the door, just above a light.  You can see it in the picture of the workmen. You . . . can . . . see it, right?

The bronze sign
The bronze sign

Okay – here’s a closeup. Look above the light. It’s bronze.

Needless to say, getting things delivered can be a bit dicey except for a few regular deliverymen who know the situation.

I wrote a couple years ago that my friend Jeanne and I determined that some numbers  are not used in our 小区. If we claimed and displayed one of them, our building would not only be properly labeled, it would also be positioned  in the proper sequence.  We made the suggestion. We’re still waiting.  I guess some things change faster than others.

Anyway, I’ve tried embedding some more video.  It works on the blog, but maybe not in an email. The first is an annotated replay of my previous bike commute from class, but taking a slightly different route than last time. Sorry for the booming wind sound. But the wind was also responsible for the blue sky.    Click here for a direct link.

The second video is quite short and not annotated. It shows a summer cloudburst.  Even though it’s taken at 2:30 pm in the early afternoon, it’s dark enough to necessitate automobile headlights.  You can also hear what apparently is a custom around here. As the wind rises, and before the rain actually begins, people just start yelling into the sky.  Of course, maybe it’s just the close proximity of undergraduate dorms that explains this activity.

Anyway, occasionally it gets as black as night, even darker than the clip here.  The first time that happened, I heard all the yelling, a lot more than on this clip, and then looked outside, saw nothing but darkness, heard nothing but the yelling. I thought it was a solar eclipse.  And after that, the deluge.  Does this sort of thing happen in America? I’ve never seen it in California.

Anyway, click here for a direct link.

Well, that’s all for now. I’d love to hear from anybody, and I hope that those outside of China can enjoy the videos.

I’ll be making at least one more post before my break. Let me know if there’s something you’d like to see depicted.

As I always used to say … hasta siempre, or maybe now it should be 等到永远  (which doesn’t seem quite to translate it, though)