From the constant destruction is coming reconstruction. The new mayor has set his sights on modernizing Zhoukou. The new river park was a done deal when he took office, but since we’ve been back, it seems like urban renewal (removal) has been kicked up a notch. Since I ride the river road through the city often it didn’t take long to notice entire neighborhoods have been leveled and a set-back from the river is being enforced, knocking down any part of a building that’s intruding into it.
Much of that construction was “informal.” The brother of a friend had bought a year’s membership to a new gym which had appeared last year along the river near tea town. It has been leveled, the owner nowhere to be found. I’m told the purpose of all this demolition is to modernize sub-standard housing, as well as add parkland. They take eminent domain to a whole new level, though I am told the displaced homeowners are well compensated. There have been protests, as some didn’t want to move. A high rise just isn’t the same as a village, but there are many new apartment towers waiting to be occupied.
I hope the new parkway will include a separate bikeway. The street now, though beautiful along the river, is sometimes more “exciting” than it should be. Narrow, unmarked, poorly lit, with potholes and other speed bumps. Motorists want to go faster than they should in that mix of traffic. The street had a lot of character, though. Informal markets, pop-up restaurants in the evening, whip-crackers and “square dancing.” Last spring we even saw a village street fair, including Chinese opera and a lot of majong. Actually, much of the river road neighborhood consisted of villages swallowed up by the city. I wouldn’t know anything about this if I hadn’t discovered it on my bike.
Talking to a local English teacher today, he confessed he has never been to any of the smaller cities and towns I ride to, except Huaiyang, where he’s from. That is generally the case here, as people seem only to want to visit larger cities unless they have relatives in the countryside, which is viewed as poor and backward. Touring the area by bicycle gives me a different perspective. Last week Steve and I rode to Nuwa city, to check on the slow progress of temple construction. The walk-through dragon heads are coming along, but we didn’t see much more because it sounded like an exorcism was going on in the room we wanted to visit. We decided not to stick around. We did however, discover a good new country road that connects two major roads, and ate noodles at a farm workers’ lunch stand, so all together it was a good ride.
We are in a rainy spell now, unfortunate because it’s a holiday week (Golden Week) and I really want to get out on the road. Also, the many holiday social invitations are making it difficult to get away, but I’m still hoping at least for that ride back to Luyi, Lao tse’s hometown, before next week. If the weather holds, maybe even another student ride.