Thursday, July 07, 2011

Deciphering The Neighborhood

With new territory comes new exploration, and so the last few mornings Steve and I have gotten up very early to go for walks through our neighborhood. While we call the tenth floor of a high-rise home, our surroundings consist of a gritty (which we love and were definitely missing last summer) series of retail shops, eateries, and alleyways.

As is true for many parts of Beijing, special areas emerge. For example, there is a section of southern Beijing that expands for many blocks and specializes in the sale of tea and tea accessories. While tea is not the specialty of our neighborhood, the product of choice in the Xueyuan Nan Lu surrounding area became clearer and clearer to us as we went deeper into the backstreets.

At first, we noticed a few fruit stands (bananas, mostly) and small business selling baskets of the type you would use to make a florist-quality fruit basket, but as we delved further we noticed van after van and man after man unloading boxes of fresh fruit. Upon further inspection, we saw hundreds of small businesses receiving the fruit from the van delivery services, only to distribute those same boxes to a stream of sanlunche, whose riders undoubtedly wheel them out to neighborhoods all across Beijing.

While not totally clear to us yet, we know that since the Xizhimen train station is very close by, these fruit shipments must be arriving from places like Hainan Island (the Hawaii of China). They're certainly not growing bananas in Beijing! And so, rather than 18-wheelers transporting these goods, hundreds of vans bring them to our neighborhood, where thousands of sanlunche get them to area street markets.

So many people are busy with this task...Even at 5am the area is wide awake and bustling with action...Just like we love!



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