The Familiar [Life in GZ, Ed. 10]

Taking the No. 189 bus to Kecun Guangzhou

It’s amazing what you can accomplish once you set your mind to it. Even though it’s too early to say that I’ll stick to my 2016 resolutions, with a few more days of January left, I am on track to finish reading my second book and have brought my Canon DSLR along with me to the office and stupidly even in the rain. Disregarding that last bit, here’s hoping this inspires you to aim higher 🙂

This edition of #GZBuzz is all about exploring “the beaten path,” or rather discovering the newness in the familiar. Enjoy!

Guangzhou supermarket
Baijiu forever.

1 — A Surprising Face
One night despite the light rain, I decide to walk the long way home, change up the scenery a bit. I approach a wet market I walked past many times before, but with the wet market closing for the day and lights illuminating the supermarket below it, I realize I have not been inside yet. Not sure if cold weather encourages an appetite for chocolate, but part of my decision to go inside is fueled by my desire to find some chocolate-covered almonds (yummiest snack ever). Immediately, I grasp this supermarket is not like AEON, the one I frequent almost daily and one which sells many imported goods. In fact, this market seems eerily similar to the Chinese markets back in Maryland, with no “foreign” brands to be seen, except for the Chinese versions of Red Bull, Oreos, etc.

Guangzhou supermarket

Also unlike AEON, there is almost no one in sight shopping here, adding to the eery feeling. Within minutes, no lie, a brawl breaks out from the back aisles. A chubby man suddenly appears walking backwards, yelling at someone still hidden behind the aisle, being held back by another man attempting to break the fight. The already-quiet market somehow seems even quieter now, as a woman appears and scurries toward the exit, likely out of fear. For a second out of instinct, I follow, until I imagine I probably will be safe if I just stay and covertly witness the scene. So I stay.

I make my way through the adjacent aisles toward the back, hoping to catch a glimpse of what’s happening. The remaining shoppers, I note, are mostly men.

Suddenly, a Caucasian face catches my eye. He’s young and doesn’t look half bad, I think. What could this foreigner possibly be doing in a deserted Chinese supermarket on this rainy night? Well, I’m here, so maybe it isn’t that out of the ordinary.

I see he’s only holding a pack of tissues, and I start walking slower, wondering if he might think I’m not actually a local. It’s a thought that crosses my mind every time I see foreigners here. With a Chinese face, it’s easy to blend in, but I often wonder how it would be different if I didn’t, especially with my explorations deep through the streets of China.

I make it to the scene of the mysterious fight only in time to see it disbanding, feeling slightly disappointed yet relieved.

As I continue walking through the empty aisles, I try noting the prices for essentials such as tissues and toilet paper. Cheaper, I note, but by a few yuan, if anything.

Soon, I make my way back toward the entrance, failing to find chocolate-covered almonds and seeing that the foreigner had already checked out and was walking back out into the rain. I see that he hesitates which direction to go in, first toward the right, then retraces and heads left.

I’ll never know why he went to this market in particular just for a pack of tissues.

Guangzhou supermarket

2 — Across the Street
Ever since someone mentioned it at the White Elephant Christmas party I attended, I’ve kept it in the back of my mind to go to the T.I.T Originality Park, a creative industrial park similar to Shenzhen’s OCT-LOFT and apparently home to the WeChat headquarters and Tencent. Today of all days, amid the coldest weather Guangzhou has ever experienced—and rain, nonetheless—I took my DSLR out to explore. After looking up the exact location, I saw that it’s right next to the Kecun metro station, the stop I first found during the Canton Fair to be a hub for shopping and food. Since then, I’ve returned a couple times via the No. 189 bus, but until now I had no idea the park is just on the other side.

Taking the No. 189 bus to Kecun Guangzhou

With an early day off from the office, I figured I would go check it out, and even if I couldn’t take many pictures with my DSLR, I would go to the spacious Starbucks nearby and make more progress on To Live (I never did get to watching the movie, of which I’m glad since I would much rather watch it after reading the book).

Going to the park on a cold, rainy day ended up being the perfect opportunity to take pictures. Not only was there hardly anyone to ruin my pictures, but I think to think that my umbrella also helped to conceal my picture-taking. Save for the occasional employee walking among the WeChat and Tencent buildings (couldn’t help but think what their jobs were), I had the freedom to explore the large park uninterrupted. I’ll definitely return on a sunny day, expecting more crowds but at least a livelier atmosphere.

I ended up taking the majority of the photos using my iPhone, given that holding an umbrella and my DSLR proved to be quite challenging. The photos I did take on the DSLR were shit, so I’m glad I can rely on the ones on my phone. And I took many 🙂

As for my DSLR photos from this past week, I ended up taking more than I’d thought, and I’ll see if I take more these next few days. Anyway, I’ll wait until closer to February to upload them—and when my WiFi isn’t so spotty (it’s a wonder I managed to upload these).

Kecun Guangzhou street market
Random shop selling the sketchiest hot dogs on the left. Liked this for artistic reasons.

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CATCH UP WITH #GZBUZZ
⇒ Wet Markets & Phone Shops
Renter, Love & Care
Camera, Coffee, Clarity
The Catch-Up
Encounters
⇒ Holidaze
⇒ Passing By
(In)conveniences
Realizations