05/10/2008 - 05/10/2008 79 °F
We went for an extended walk around the neighborhood on Saturday, and I took a few pictures to help describe our area. You can follow along by looking closely at our Google Map or using Google Earth.
Yeye and nainai's apartment is part of a large development called Changqing (=LongGreen, or "Evergreen") Garden. This large residential development has been built in stages, called "villages", over the past ~15 years. Some new villages are still under construction, and there is still some land that hasn't been started yet. There will be 27 when all are built. In the center and part of the development is a fairly large park. However, when going for a walk or morning exercise we don't usually go this far, because a smaller park (also part of the development) is directly adjacent to our village, along its southern border.
On the Map you can see the development is roughly a large semi-circle shape, with its flat edge oriented northeast - southwest. That edge was historically (for about 50 years) the edge of Hankou, but the city has more recently grown to include the area of Changqing Garden and beyond. That historical border was defined in dirt by a sizable embankment built in the late 50s. This embankment encircles the entirety of Hankou, including along both the Han River and the Changjiang, and was intended to protect the city from damaging flooding of the Changjiang, which occurred regularly through the centuries. The levee, if I may call it such, did in fact protect the city from half a dozen or so floods which occurred in the last 50 years. One of the main purposes of the Three Gorges Dam, completed mid-2006, was to control flooding of the Changjiang below it, so now Wuhan is free to expand beyond Hankou's protective levee.
The linear space occupied by the embankment also lends itself well to roads. A local access road runs along the north side of the embankment, parallel to it. Our village #27 (they were not built in numerical order) is just north of this road. South of the road, at the foot of the levee, is a long narrow strip of greenery. At our location, being part of Changqing Garden, this strip has been developed into a park, with walkways, manicured trees, flowers, lawn, bamboo stands and other plants, metal exercise equipment, a couple of metal table-tennis tables, and a round plaza with slightly elevated stage and some stone tables and with stone stools. Every non-rainy morning, this park is filled with (mostly older) folks doing various kinds of exercise, from tai chi, swordplay, dance, and other interesting toys, and after dinner the park again fills with walkers encouraging their digestion with a dinner constitutional.
At some locations, squeezed into the quite small area between the manicured park and the embankment, enterprising residents have planted vegetable gardens. With no one to tell them no, and probably little vandalism, they get enjoyment, exercise, and fresh veggies all in one activity.
On top of the embankment is 1.5 lanes of concrete, often used by bicyclists and walkers, and also used by people practicing driving. Access is limited to stairs (or climbing the incline), except for a couple spots allowing larger vehicles up. Along our stretch there is also a large pillbox embedded in the embankment, maybe built during WW2 for defense against the Japanese, and preceding the construction of the levee.
On the south side of the embankment in our neighborhood is the outer ring of Wuhan, a major traffic road. This ring isn't complete yet, but it has heavy traffic here. At the west end of our neighborhood, the ring road is elevated high onto bridges to fly over a traffic artery passing through a cut in the embankment and into the city. Even the space below the overpasses is not wasted, but contains park structures and manicured plants.
At the center of Changqing Garden is a moderately large semi-circular central park, with large water features, tennis courts, a larger plaza with stadium seating, permanent exercise equipment, and a children's center and retiree center (both under construction). When we walked through late afternoon on Saturday, it was not nearly as crowded as I might have expected considering the size of this development, but numerous smaller parks (like ours, most of the villages are near a green space that is part of the development) surely easy the burden on this central one. A man was playing with his radio-controlled boat in the water, some folks were feeding fish, 6 or 8 kites were in the air (a few astonishingly high for this densely populated area).
Within the broad outline of Changqing Garden, however, some land is not owned by the development. One significant area is occupied by Wuhan Polytechnic University, with four gates from surrounding streets into the campus. We are very close to the southern gate, and walk frequently into and through the campus to exit at other gates (usually towards the western gate).
Further north, just south of the large semi-circular central park, a subway station is currently under construction. The subway will allow much quicker access to the central city for those living near it, for the same fare as a good quality bus. We're sort of a hike from the station -- not so convenient with a big load of groceries; but there will surely continue to be local (non-automobile) taxis in the neighborhood. Four subway lines are under construction in addition to the one which is already open, but I imagine buses will still blanket the city.