Monday, October 13, 2014

Our Big Backyard

Biking through campus

Autumn comes to the Hundred Acre Woods
 One thing many western parents miss about living in China is having a backyard.  I remember spending so much time in our backyard as a child.  We rode our bikes on the driveway, built forts from leaves and sticks, played in our treehouse, performed acrobatic fetes on our jungle-bars, slid down the grassy hill, and trapsed through the woods escaping from tornadoes and evil step-mothers.  Once we were old enough not to need constant supervision, my mom could watch from the kitchen window as she prepared dinner.  We played for hours outside and were generally reluctant to come back inside.
"What is he doing?  Why is he sad?"
I expect to see Wild Things come dancing through
 In China, we will probably never have a big backyard, and it will be quite a while before the girls are old enough to send them out on their own.  While it only takes a minute or two to scale the stairs, somehow 5 flights seems like a bigger obstacle than just walking out the door - particularly when carrying a baby, a stroller, a bag, some toys, and a child bike.  If we forget anything less important than a child, there is no going back.
The playground near our apartment

Using the see-saw as a drawing table.
I sometimes wish for our own private bit of nature, but we have been blessed to live on a beautiful campus right now.  Just outside our apartment is a small playground area, definitely a rarity in China.  This is Juliana's favorite place to play, and unlike a personal jungle gym, this playground is usually swarming with other kids to play with!  I may value some peace and quiet, but you know Juliana - alone time sounds like some form of torture to her.
The step-stone path

The stroller-backpack

One of the best things about this campus is the abundance of nature.  It is full of beautiful trees and lush green grass - you would never guess we are right on the edge of the desert!  When we (I) want some quiet time in nature, we head to "The Hundred Acre Woods," a little grassy strip between some teacher houses and the campus wall.  Here we dig in the dirt, play in the leaves, and watch the seasons change.  Noisy trucks lumber by on the other side of the wall, but our side is peaceful and hidden. It is secluded enough that we hardly see anyone other than the man who waters the grass.
The lake on campus
Summer in the Hundred Acre Woods
Some days we scale "North Mountain," an unnatural grassy hill covering some sort of machinery (I assume...).  Other days we play hide-and-seek behind the statues and inside the pagodas in a very Chinese-looking park area.  We hop back and forth along the stepping stones in the middle of campus while students swarm by taking pictures.  We walk around the lake.  We explore winding paths and underneath arbors and make pretend houses on the basketball courts.  We collect apples in summer and leaves in the fall.
This summer we discovered apple trees!

Adalyn exploring nature

Our backyard may not be private, but I realize Juliana is not missing that backyard experience at all.  Instead she has an expansive backyard full of fun places to explore.  And even better, every time she goes outside she finds new friends to play with!
Throwing leaves