Park Culture in China

Many things strike me when I think about all the parks we have wandered through this week.  First, they’re everywhere yet we were the only “western” people in the parks and people did look at us weird, probably thinking, “What the hell??”  Thom and I love to walk the streets and absorb the culture wherever we go-Barcelona, NYC, Seattle, etc.  You see the locals enjoying their regular lives this way.  It is intimidating to go into an area knowing you will stand out but more travelers should take the plunge.  I’m so glad that Thom and I both share this love of wandering around and getting lost in the culture wherever we go-it’s so fun!

I saw so many cool activities going on in the parks–men playing cards, particularly older folks working out with tai chai, using the provided outdoor manual fitness equipment or just strolling along.  Even when just walking though there is a certain step cadence and their hands making motions in a pattern that must have significance.  It’s all so organic and spiritual as well as healthy.   If  US citizens would embrace outdoor exercise as much as their China counterparts, you have to think the obesity levels would dramatically decrease.  You rarely see any citizens here that are overweight.  Hmmmm…..must be all that exercise in the parks.

Spontaneous music appears in the parks as you walk the interior lanes.  We happened upon one man playing a string instrument, another guy in a stone hut serenading the passersby with his flute and a crowd watching a singer belt out beautiful haunting ballads–people sharing their passion and talent-not for money like the panhandlers in Seattle you see on the streets but just for the sheer enjoyment of the music.  How refreshing!

I am so impressed with the maintenance of the public areas.  You never see a piece of trash anywhere and the shrubs/gardens//flowers are kept in perfect repair.  It’s nice to see everyone out enjoying the parks.  I just wish more foreigners (well, really any foreigners) would enjoy all this beauty that’s free and so easily accessible.   In the meantime, Thom and I will continue to have fun exploring on foot all the cool corners of Shanghai!

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