After nine months, it’s still surprising that things still surprise me here. But they do. Some of the surprises are good. Those that add to the sense of adventure of living in China are the best. The ones that make me think “Yep, I really am in China! This is what I came for. Where else would this happen?” This weekend was full of them.
Riding our bikes down the Feng Cheng boardwalk on Saturday, we encountered a haizhe hunting operation (jellyfish fishing operation just sounds off). The hunters included three guys who hauled the freshly caught, tentacle-free jellies from the sea to the boardwalk using feed bags tided to a long wooden pole. On the boardwalk, they transferred the jellyfish to plastic laundry baskets, weighed them, and unceremoniously dumped them into the beds of two small trucks. Two jovial hatted ladies, who taught us how to say jellyfish in Haiyangnese, guarded the scales and loot while the men went back to the water for another catch. The more senior woman fished out a little black notebook from her Adidas purse and recorded the weight. We continued on, our curiosity having been peaked then satisfied.
We rode until the boardwalk dead-ended at the newly built bridge leading to Lian Li Dao, a new resort area being built for the masses of tourists that will one day flock to Feng Cheng. The bridge was roped off, but we checked out the promotional sign next to it to get a sense of the island. It will feature an indoor — yes, indoor — pool with beach, a Ferris wheel, a marina, and lots of swanky Western looking houses.
We turned around to head back towards Feng Cheng, this time on the road, not the boardwalk. But we didn’t get too far before detouring into a newly constructed neighborhood. Like all the other ones around us, the neighborhood clearly took its inspiration from Italian architecture. And like all of those other neighborhoods, this one sat eerily empty. Only one of the townhouses was occupied, probably by the Party member who built the neighborhood, his or her black Mercedes parked on the freshly paved road behind the house. All the rest were empty concrete shells filled with debris left from construction workers. We ventured into one house, taking the wide open garage door as our invitation. We dodged electrical wires hanging haphazardly out of the walls and gingerly stepped over water bottles and trash strewn about the floors. In what he presumed would one day be a bathroom, Iggy discovered a pile of human shit in a corner. Must have been his lucky day.
Back on the main drag that runs through Feng Cheng, we stopped to check out more construction projects. These ones involved tall, tall, tall buildings in various stages of completion that will most likely remain empty, empty, empty when all is said and done. It was nap time at the site. Actually, it’s safe to say that in all of Shandong province, nap time occurs roughly between 1:00-2:00pm, seven days a week. Iggy took advantage of the lull in the work and rode into the site to check out the heavy machinery. He briefly chatted with two shirtless Mongolian workers on their break who only seemed interested in finding out where he was from. A little ways up the road, we paused under two different but identical gates that featured a Romanesque woman figure on the left and a Romanesque man on the right. Beyond the gates, workers slowly began to come out of their temporary housing structures and make their way back to work. Nap time was over.
The weekend was capped off by a random horse sighting on Sunday evening, which doesn’t sound too odd, but given that we live in an area where I’ve only seen horse meat for sale at the markets or on the side of the road, it was. We were over at the beach where Iggy was just walking out of the water (I haven’t braved the waters of the Yellow Sea yet and I might not ever). On the sandy hill behind us a lone rider on his horse galloped by, looking regal and professional, like something more typically seen in the lush, green English countryside. We were on a sandy stretch of a not-so-clean beach in rural China. Where else would this happen? Only in China, folks. Too bad we didn’t have a camera with us.