Sunday, November 23, 2014

Morning Commute

The 8 o'clock "go to school" bell is ringing as I snap on Juliana's helmet.  Coat, gloves, towel to cover the legs, princess backpack - check.  We wave goodbye to Daddy and Adalyn and head down the stairs. Here on the edge of the desert, the temperature drops every night.  Right now it is 28 degrees, but long about January our early morning bike rides are going to get awfully chilly.  I heave Juliana up onto the bike seat, and we are off to Kindergarten.
Selling fried egg bread outside the school gate
The guard waves cheerfully as we pass through the school gate.  Just outside the gate, several carts sell morning snacks to the students passing by.  Flat egg bread sizzles as it fries.  Vendors pass out cups of hot soy milk.  The fruit seller begins to arrange her wares.  The bike repair man is already fixing a flat tire.  Many of the shops and restaurants are still closed.  Since China is all on one time zone, here in the "west" morning begins a little later, and shops cater to students' later hours.

On the small street across from the campus gate, the morning market is in full swing.  Local farmers line the street with trucks, carts, and sheets full of apples, cabbages, and all manner of produce.  Grannies and housewives are already making their way back home with their morning purchases.
A fruit seller is ready for the morning
The roads are seldom crowded out on the edge of town, but other parents drive small, backpack-ladden children to kindergarten.  Middle school students, garbed in their schools' track suit uniforms, bike to school with friends.  A car pulls up next to a food cart along side the road for some "drive-thru" breakfast.  I enjoy biking, though I'm not looking forward to the cold winter months, but one primary disadvantage is the inability to drink coffee during the commute. 
So this is actually a new building, but you get the idea...
The sun is still low but reflects brightly, turning old, rust-rimmed windows to brilliant orange.  The snow-topped mountains are starting to show through the morning haze.

Music is blaring from the local park, and through the gate we catch a glimpse of 30-40 middle aged women dancing together.  They wave fans and march along to the music.  The weather is chilly, but they are warmed by their dancing - not to mention their multiple layers of long underwear.
Dancers in the park
As we get closer to the kindergarten, we see more parents and backpack totting children biking and walking toward the school.  The tiny road in front of the school is a mess of cars, motorbikes, and bicycles trying to get around each other during the morning drop off.  Lively children's music is playing through the speakers and the guard gives each child a friendly good morning as we join the line for the morning health check.

After dropping of Juliana at her classroom, I join the other parents hurrying off to work and home.  The street is less crowded now.  Several tractors lumber down the road with huge loads of hay.  I pass a local mosque, it's green roofs peering out from behind a large gas station.  I hear the tell-tale sound of "It's A Small World" as the water truck drives through spraying off the road.  The street cleaners work their way down the sidewalks with large, straw brooms.
A local mosque
A car drives down the wrong side of the street and swerves onto a side road, narrowly avoiding my bicycle.  This happens so often it's not worth worrying about.  You know what they say: "6 inches is as good as a mile."  Instead I feel a little nostalgic for the old days of chaotic traffic, when part of the bus route went down the wrong side of the street.  As more and more cars take over the roads, traffic is tamer, especially on Yinchuan's wide roads.  

At the park, some women are still dancing, but others are returning home.  One woman pulls a large red drum on wheels.  The sun is higher and the windows no longer shine.  Campus is quiet; most students are in class now.  The grannies have not yet brought their babies and toddlers out to play.  I open the door to the warmth of home: to a baby toddling toward me, to laundry and dishes and to-do lists, and to half a cup of coffee waiting to be reheated.

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