I've got a bad cold. All day long I've been sneezing so hard it makes my elbows hurt. I don't know how medical science would explain it, but that's what's happening.
But anyway, the thing I want to blog about tonight is how awesome Chinese parks are! I just love that whenever I'm bored, I can go down to the park and just walk around looking at what people are doing, and more often than not I will quickly be sucked into some kind of Cultural Adventure.
This narrow back alley is a shortcut to the park.
The gap in those bars is almost too narrow to get an accordion through, but it fits if you turn it sideways. Trufax.
Lu Xun park (named after a famous local writer from the 1920s) is centered around a lake with several islands, bridges, etc.
The park is not that large in total area, but it feels much bigger than it is because it's divided into lots of little paths separated by vegetation, so you can get lost in it and wander around for hours.
It's no YuanMingYuan, but Lu Xun park has some views that are quite nice.
On the west side of the park is Hongkou football (i.e. soccer for us Americans) stadium. When there's a match happening, the cheers can be heard from several blocks away.
I doubt they catch anything edible, but I see people fishing in the lake all the same.
A large crayfish came close enough to the surface of the lake to capture on camera.
When I'm sitting on a park bench studying my Chinese textbook, random people will sometimes walk up, grab the book away from me, point to a random passage, and ask me to read it out loud. Just to make sure I'm doing it right, I guess.
One time I was studying and a random old guy yelled "HALLOOO!" at me. I said "hello" back. He took this as an invitation to come sit down next to me on the park bench, tell me my nose is too big, and start feeling up my leg hairs. He had, like, no concept of personal space.
Random old guys in Shanghai: not at all shy about getting up in my business.
The lotus is a symbol of transcendence in Buddhism because it's a beautiful flower that grows out of the mud.
Hideous public sculpture!
This one could give some of the hideous public sculpture in Palo Alto a run for its money.
Sometimes I see people writing long strings of Chinese on the sidewalk with a bucket of water and a long brush.
Sushu says it's mostly just a way to practice penmanship without having to use up paper, but sometimes people write subversive or anti-government slogans this way; once the water evaporates there's no evidence of the crime.
A group of people practicing Tai Chi sword forms.
You know you're getting used to China when it seems perfectly reasonable that retired old ladies would spend their mornings swinging swords around.
Another group of middle-aged folks practicing ballroom dancing, to romantic music piped through a horrible low-fidelity amplifier.
Now imagine there's three different dance classes next to each other, all with their own music playing at once. Plus people carrying their boom boxes down the path. It's cacophony.
Another group of retirees, practicing the Fan Dance.
And yet another dance group, starting a rehearsal. Judging by the costumes, I'm guessing it's a folk dance of one of the ethnic minorities from northwestern China. Not sure, though.
Another park activity: these things. No idea what they're called; they're like spinning tops on long cords that make a buzzing noise as they orbit. Somebody who's good at it can make the thing whip around at dizzying speed.
This guy had one of those six-blade RC helicopter dealies that he was trying to control from his laptop. An expectant crowd gathered, waiting to see if something cool would happen.
And here we have liftoff!
It's in the sky!
Up, up, and away!
This one old guy in the crowd next to me got super excited about it. He kept nudging me and saying "Jishu!" ("technology!")
The inscription on this clock is a wish for peace and friendship between the young people of China and Japan. D'awwwww.
You can rent boats and ride around in the lake.
If it's not too hot and doesn't look likely to start raining, I'll take my accordion to the park and find a place to practice. People are very friendly about it and will stop to listen a while, ask how long I've been playing, where I'm from, what a song is called, etc. Some very fun conversations have started this way.
One time I was playing by the edge of the lake. A girl and her uncle stopped to listen for a while. Then a while later the two of them pulled up behind me in a boat and invited me to get in.
Uhhhhhh.... OK! What's the worst that could happen?
Anyway, we rowed around for a while, made awkward conversation, I practiced my Chinese, the girl practiced her English, we took some pictures, I played a few tunes, the people in the other boats were jealous that they didn't have accordion-playing foreigners of their own, etc.
After we returned the boat and got out, the uncle invited me to go to another park with them. I asked him where it was and he said we would take a taxi there. That sounded kind of sketchy so I made an excuse that my wife was expecting me back at home.
A five-harmonica band practicing something inspiring and patriotic.
The woman on the left is singing a very dramatic and mournful song while the guys in the back play the arhu (a two-stringed instrument played with a bow, not entirely unlike a violin).
I'm not even the only person playing an accordion at the park!
I couldn't hear if this guy was any good or not, because he was surrounded by a crowd of people singing along so loudly that they drowned out the sound of the instrument. But I love how he's got his motorcycle set up as a mobile base of operations.
That's what Chinese sheet music looks like, by the way: just a series of numbers indicating pitches, with dots or lines modifying the length.
Other stuff I saw but didn't get pictures of:
I saw an old lady taking her pet cricket for a walk. Yes, pet crickets are a real thing. (No, it wasn't on a tiny cricket leash. You put the cricket in a cage and carry the cage around.)
I also saw a teenager wearing a shirt with an x-ed out Che Guevara that said "Commies Aren't Cool". Maybe this is how Chinese teens irritate their parents?