A digression on the neighborhood
By Brenda Tremblay ~ Posted Tue, 07/15/2008 - 5:46pm
When the Rochester Oratorio Society landed in Beijing Sunday, singers were bused to the Ruicheng Hotel in an industrial-suburban about six miles west of the Forbidden City. Initially, I was deflated to be so far from the pretty stuff. I'd imagined daily jogs through the Imperial gardens. But now that we've had a chance to look around, I'm glad to be staying in a grittier part of town.
Half a block away runs a shallow, murky canal. Public parks line both sides, and Chinese gather in the morning for ping pong games, badminton, tai chi, and visits to the market. Old men hang caged birds in the trees. People smile and say hello.
Along the canal, small hovels spill garbage into the streets and dirty cats groom on rooftops. We smell rotten vegetables and raw sewage. In the distance looms the radio and TV tower, the tallest building in Beijing, which opened in 1990 for the Asian games. Old and new, small and great, fast and slow all co-exist in this ancient city, the center of the oldest continuous civilization on earth.