We don’t get out much these days. This winter has been a drag. The worst — but also last — of our extended stay in China. The pollution has kept us sequestered inside, turning Baby K and me into recluses.
I’ve forced ourselves out the door for a walk on the odd blue sky sunny days when they occur. It’s one big, sweaty effort to get both of us dressed in enough layers for the cold that has finally set in. Once that’s accomplished, I stuff my fussy baby into her carrier (or harness as her dad lovingly calls it). Over that snaps a hooded sweatshirt-like blanket and over me goes a puffy Columbia winter jacket. Hats and hoods go up for us both. One of ours has little ears. I’ll leave it to you to guess whose. Mittens cover our hands and I pull the bandana around my neck up and over my face to block the harsh wind. By the time we make it out the door, I’m hot and exhausted and wondering why I put myself through such torture.
It takes a few minutes of walking to lull Baby K to sleep. I need some time, too, to settle into the slow-paced groove. We’ve recently ventured out into the world beyond our village, ditching the boring track for the more interesting He Dian Er Lu. It’s a world where trash rots in overgrown ditches on the beach side of the road. You’d think this would be a turn off for the prospective buyers of the half-million dollar apartments on the opposite side.
But maybe not if the potential dwellers are tempted by an odd marketing campaign. One that shows off a headless, thong wearing woman running with a more appropriately dressed companion in waters that I guarantee are not the Yellow Sea.
For the girls, there’s David Beckham, former international soccer star, turned model, turned mega millionaire. I didn’t know that he was selling real estate in China. Maybe he doesn’t either. But like any other celebrity that just wants to get richer, it’s probably not much of a stretch for his global lifestyle brand.
This place will never turn into a beach destination no matter how sexy the developers dress it up to sell it. The upwardly mobile Beijingers and Shanghaiers aren’t going to flock to this stretch of desolate coast bookended by a nuclear power plant and an industrial port. No one is coming here to frolic in frigid murky waters. Haiyang is not the next Ocean City. It’s not a Myrtle or Waikiki beach. It’s a place a handful of outsiders like us call home for now. But, the true inhabitants will only ever be farmers who don’t want all the high rises and don’t need cheap tiki huts to enjoy a beach that’s always been part of their own backyard. It’s a place we’ll happily leave in less than a year. And, also a place we’re excited to temporarily trade in starting tomorrow. Zàijiàn Haiyang. Here we come Hawaii. Aloha warmth. Aloha blue water and golden sand. Aloha America.