Apologies for the lack of posts recently. It’s been super busy lately with work and other stuff. And will continue to be busy for at least another two weeks. However, I thought I’d blog quickly about one of my favorite parts of warm weather and summers in Beijing…..the squares! No, not the shape. Nor the nerds. I’m talking about those outdoor squares, or plazas, or whatever you want to call them. There is a huge square near my apartment complex, where hordes of Chinese people (mostly older) gather to dance, sing, play instruments, and jump rope! Actually, it’s a good mix of all ages, but surprisingly, the ones doing all the dancing are the older folk. It’s incredibly amusing, to say the least, to see a group of aunties and grandmas dancing in sync to Aqua’s “Barbie Girl” as they sway their hips and twist and turn.
And that’s just one dance group! In another part of the square, men and women gather together for ballroom dancing. Next to them yet another group dances to the beat of Bollywood music. In the middle, young hipsters jump rope to fast-paced music, complete with criss-cross, backwards, and side to side styling. In the corner of the square, elderly men and women stand with their hands behind their back, reading lyrics off of a small poster sheet of paper, and singing out patriotic Chinese songs from olden days. They are accompanied by an old man playing the trumpet, and another one playing the saxophone.
While most of these people believe they are heading to the square for their after-dinner exercise, I think that there is a strong underlying feeling of community involved as well. I definitely feel it, even as a foreigner. I guess it helps that I look like one of them. The sense of community is definitely present throughout Beijing. In every corner of the hutongs, you can see a few old men gathered on their short stools, smoking and chatting with their legs crossed. Around the vegetable stands, women complain to each other about the obviously bad quality of the vegetables, and then hand over their money to the proprietor. It’s something that I can say I haven’t really experienced in the US in terms of my neighborhood; that you don’t have to know or even speak to your neighbor to have a sense of belonging to a community. Kind of ironic but there it is.