Thursday, October 11, 2007

Two Lovely Girls – and their home in the Hutongs

While I was chatting with an old man in the hutongs (胡同) near the new National Theatre, two lovely little girls came along singing and laughing. So I started chatting with them too. And they proceeded to tell me their names (even nicknames), where they live, where they go to school, where they were going to have dinner and why, …

Then the mother of one of the girls appeared around the corner. I debated with myself for a moment whether I should flee, or stay to face the music. I decided to stay. Not only did she not get upset, but she proceeded to tell me about the neighbourhood and even their family, and invited me to visit their home! It turned out they lived somewhere near the Great Wall, but rented a room in one of the courtyards in Beijing because her husband drives a taxi in the city.

So I had a chance to legitimately visit one of the courtyards and here are some views of the inside of the courtyard. It did not look like a traditional四合院 because the courtyard had been almost completely filled with shabby additions.

She had to prepare for a hot pot dinner with friends coming over, so she asked her husband to entertain me. We ended up talking sitting on their bed. They had a pretty big bed but the room was only about double the size of the bed, and they were going to have the hot pot dinner inside the room. They do have a refrigerator and a TV, and they are not poor – there is plenty of demand for taxis since the economy is blooming and the Olympics are coming. But real estate is expensive in Beijing. A friend told me the apartment in the northwest of the city that he bought for 700K a few years ago is worth 2 million now.

The black round blocks stockpiled outside their door were coal. They use gas to cook now, but still use coal for heat in winter.


Anonymous said...

Congratulations! So this shows you have a face that even strangers (innocent girls) trust.

The Cat said...

Why am I totally not surprised at your encounter? :-)

StephenC said...

Hm... I am not sure how to interpret this. :)

Anyway, the girls were really really cute. Perhaps they reminded me of my own girls, when they were younger.