Wednesday, March 12, 2008

An Afternoon in the Pu

Only half an hour into our walk through the Pu, we had a group of about twenty teenage boys trailing us and shouting at ear-splitting volume. This is what it feels like to be a celebrity, I thought. This is what it would be like if I were Ben Affleck and showed up at the local mall.

My girlfriend and I headed out on a recent afternoon to what the foreign community here affectionately refers to as “the Pu,” Tuopu, one of the many small villages on the outskirts of the city that have been subsumed under urban sprawl.

The Pu lies out on Daxue Lu, University Road. It is a smallish community, set against a dark river into which people dump their trash. Tuopu is a mix of old-style Chinese houses set close together, and apartments of Soviet bloc architecture. As you go further from the main road, the spaces widen; rough gardens and fields of crops appear. A friend tells me that in the local language, there is a slur against people who live there that translates something close to “Tuopu hillbilly.”

After an afternoon walking around there, though, and getting treated like rock stars, it seems an unfair assessment.

What is true of the Pu, however, is that it seems to be a place in a city — where traffic is generally of the Mad Max variety — of even more boundless traffic freedom.