Cruising the Hood

Primroses in bloom along Lantian Lu

Alright, that’s a bit much for Jinqiao, but that is the neighborhood around here.

I’ll own up to shame of not really going out much in this particular area. I think I had walked around the general block of school (Mingyue/Huangyang Lu), Hongfeng Lu (restaurant row, one street over from school), Lantian Lu (runs behind my apartment), all the way over as far as Carrefour (two blocks down). Sad, yes. But since groceries, restaurants, and Starbucks are all within the general coordinates of this 1/2 km extension, I didn’t see the need to walk further. I thought an excursion in Jinqiao was walking a bit past MegaFit to Yolo or B & Q on the very rare occasion…

Even in the States, I was never one of those people who just drove for the sake of driving. I drove for a purpose, to get something, to go somewhere specific. I had a tiny sense of adventure if it was carefully planned and I had Google-mapped it ahead of time – or I had my GPS system on board.

In all, I really need to get out more, that is true. I do venture over to Puxi side, People’s Park, and the Bund, but most weekends, I just like to chillax in my apartment and actually see my place in the daytime. Most school evenings are late, so it’s fairly dark by the time I arrive home. The downside to seeing the place during the day is seeing how dirty the floors are. Then I end up sweeping and washing them. Sigh.

But today, I figured I may as well break out of the Jinqiao bubble and go a little further – though still in Jinqiao, but well past MegaFit Mall and Carrefour. Gasp! And I didn’t explode once I stepped past Carrefour. That’s a positive.

I strolled a few blocks down from there, not really with a specific goal in mind. I got to Baihua Lu (about 1 1/2 km away) and walked up and down, just to check it out. I was happy to see roadside markets set up, as I had planned to buy veg later on anyway. The strawberries are particularly delicious this time of year – the best strawberries I’ve ever tasted. I found a little coffee shop with tasty, takeaway-sized cakes, so I picked up a little petit four-type pastry with green tea icing and vanilla cake and a small latte (natie – I can give a general Starbucks order in Mandarin now!) for my walk.

There was a potted plant seller on the one street corner, and they happened to have fresh rosemary, basil, mint, and lavender plants. I picked up the rosemary and mint this time with the view to walk back another day and get lavender and basil. I will need someone to tend them over summer break whilst I’m gone, or, I suppose I can hang them up to dry. Maybe I will break down and get an ayi (“auntie,” but here it is a part-time housekeeper or child care provider) – finally!

I roamed a bit around Baihua Lu and BiYun Lu, which brought me to the Trek bicycle shop so I could price bike baskets, which I am sorely in need of when I bring my lunch or other gear to school. I found a little convenience store as well to pick up a water and, oddly enough, the Nescafe instant coffee that I will occasionally succumb to drinking when I’m too lazy to make French press coffee at home. No, I have not lost or broken my precious Keurig Mini – that’s at school for all my school-coffee needs. Which is all the time.

Suddenly, as I was roaming around a little plaza area, my nose caught the scent of barbecuing meat. My mouth started to water like mad. I went in pursuit of this delicious smell, only to find Yasmine’s, our local steakhouse and butchering facility. I was suspiciously hungry, quite out of the blue, so I walked in, took an outdoor seat (the day was fine – a nice 70ish degrees in the warm sunshine), and ordered a thick, juicy burger.

Oh. My. Good. Ness.

Delish. With the onion rings, I was very happy. Red meat – never to be underestimated!

After a filling lunch on the terrace at Yasmine’s, I walked over to SPR Coffee, a Taiwanese coffee chain. I figured I could try something other than Starbucks for once. I had my laptop on me – I had wanted to stop at some coffeeshop or another to work on my novel – so this was the perfect spot. The day turned cloudy and cooler suddenly – much like a Chicago weather change! – so hot coffee was just what I needed.

The staff were ultra-friendly in the way only waiters and waitresses here can be – you order the instant you walk in the door, before you can even sit down. I got a thick, foamy latte, which had about an inch of foam on top of rich, creamy coffee. Cream in coffee – now that’s a luxury when I normally opt for skim milk! I settled in one of the green upholstered armchairs and went to work, typing away on my laptop, and then and again listening in when I heard Chinese being spoken and seeing if I could translate some of it in my head.

You might say, this is China, wouldn’t Chinese be spoken? Well, yes, but Jinqiao houses a great deal of Chinese English speakers, so the opportunity to listen and speak it can be limited. I do understand prices, but the tendency is for a cashier or market person to say it in English. I actually have to work hard to practice my Chinese!

After an hour or so in SPR, I left with the intent of wandering around a bit more before heading back to bubble-world. I found a neat little meat grocery store where items in aquariums and tanks still swam about before they were bought. It was simply that – freshly-butchered meat with a little cold case of veg by the door. Definitely good if you want fresh, fresh seafood and chicken bits – or beef livers.

I headed back into our little neck of the woods after a few hours out exploring in and out of shops and neighborhoods, as I needed to make a quick grocery stop before going home.

It was a nice day of wandering. It’s good to go out alone sometimes, eat alone, and read alone. I won’t be, as the woman says in the newest version of Sabrina, “[You seem] embarrassed by loneliness.” It’s not so much loneliness as the need to be alone, to think, to reflect, to wonder without feeling pressed for conversation.

I need to wander more often.

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