Saturday, July 05, 2008
Fun at the Park
Now that summer has arrived in Zhangye the weather has been beautiful (if sometimes overbearingly hot), and there are few better places to enjoy the outdoors in the city than Ganquan Park (entrance seen in the above picture). Before coming to China, I had a pretty predictable image of what a "park" is: shady trees, couples taking leisurely bike rides, picnic tables, excitable dogs, and quiet. Most Chinese cities have at least one park, but they tend to have a uniquely Chinese spin to them.
At our park, there is everything you might need for a relaxing day out in nature: whack-a-mole, shoot-the-balloon games, an artificial lake, paddle boats, artificial rock sculptures, a basketball game, archery, fishing, copies of the David and the Venus de Milo, lamb kebabs, men playing loud drinking games, music, a carousel, a haunted house, bumper cars, a small roller coaster, and a zoo. In other words, it's not really a place you go to listen to the chirping of the birds, but it's fun in it's own unique way (I wouldn't recommend the zoo though, which might be more accurately named the Prison for Animals). It's a nice place to have a cold beer and sit under the (artificial) shade, but not a place to walk your dog or take a bike ride. Dogs are not nearly as popular in China in the first place, and bikes are for getting around and carrying things like your groceries, your new computer, or your girlfriend. When I tell Chinese people that at home we put our bikes on our car, drive 15 minutes to the park, ride around the park for fun, and then drive home, they think that it's hilarious. In over two years in China, I have also never seen a Chinese person running for fun, even on the track on our campus.
But my favorite park activity is something that I had heard about in China, but not seen here until this year. It seems to be called buxing qiu in Chinese, or literally "walking ball." The idea is that you get inside a giant inflatable ball which is then sealed and put out to float around in a pool of water. You then have five minutes to walk, roll, or flop around in your giant tethered hamster ball, to the great amusement of onlookers (in this case the little girl's mother, who kept shouting "run! run!"). A couple of pictures: