On Saturday morning, Sal's fever finally broke and he was acting more like himself again. The weather was "nice" (read: not freezing and decent pollution levels) enough to get out for a walk. Our family has become quite good at walking. Maybe when we return to the states we'll try out for Olympic speed walking. We're definitely logging the miles here.
It's difficult to explain our life here, and just---how shall I say---"prison like" it can feel when we have limited access to a car. Yes, we have a driver, but as a rule, we don't hire him for the weekends. We're on our own for transportation. As a family unit, if we want to get out together, it has to be on foot due to our car seat situation for the boy. Even if we were to find a taxi with working safety belts, we would then be left to our own devices with a 21 lb. car seat to lug around once we reach our destination. Not exactly our idea of convenient or fun. Oh how I miss the days of the car seat carrier and snap in stroller frame.
Anyways, since walking is pretty much our only option aside from using our driver in his off hours, we have really gotten to explore our neighborhood. If we head out to the main road in front of our complex and hang a left, we can walk all the way to Starbucks, passing Xindi plaza which is full of wonderful Asian restaurants (our favorite jiaozi place happens to be there). During the nicer weather, Sal and I usually do this walk with the ladies and call it 5k Monday, which is really code for working-off-the-Starbucks-we're-about-to-throw-down.
If we head out the rear gate (which is closest to our building), we walk past a construction site of new apartments being built, a canal and a bunch of auto repair shops. If we go far enough , we end up at Shin City which houses a Tesco supermarket, Taste bistro (Australian owned), and the indoor playground that Sal and I often play at. On the walk towards Shin city, we pass more new apartments, a pirate ship themed outdoor park and an alley way to another produce market.
This past Saturday, we headed out the main gates and to the right. There is a new plaza that was erected in record time (4 months) full of stores aimed at westerners. It's about 2.5 kilometers from our place, so we thought it would be great to get out of our germ infested apartment for a while. I had been to the plaza with the ladies, but NZ had not. I was excited to show him around. We window shopped a lot, tried on some shoes, and bought a jacket. I am now officially well suited for the Chinese winter in a new Nike puffer jacket. It's so warm!
After getting a good dose of mall walking, we headed towards home and stopped at our favorite Muslim noodle room. It's across from the orphanage that sits right next door to our apartment complex. We probably get Muslim noodles 2-3 times a month, usually on Saturdays. There are four little girls who basically live at the restaurant while their parents work. They always run up to our spaceship looking stroller and want to use it, touch it, feel it. They talk to Sal, play pat-a-cake and peek-a-boo, and giggle amongst themselves at the little white boy. On Saturday, one of them was playing with a tattered yellow balloon. It was filthy.
Let me reiterate. F-I-L-T-H-Y.
Like, let-me-find-my-sanitizer-pronto filthy.
But she knew no different. It made me tear up a little to think of these four little girls, and their life as compared to our son's. Here this little girl was just pleased as punch with her dirty balloon, and one block away in a high rise apartment, this little American boy named Sal has toys and clothes to spare. It made me want to share some of our extras with them. I've got to ask around a bit before I do, as I don't want to offend anyone, or make some cultural faux-paux.
One thing I do know, is that those four little girls have melted my heart.