What's it like to live across town from Sichuan University, the American Consulate, and Tongzilin—or even outside the city limits? In this column I'll be asking the tough questions of foreigners who inhabit Chengdu's lesser-known neighborhoods and suburbs. This month CHENGDOO photographer Dan Sandoval briefs us on the ups and downs of life in square C3 (Fuqin Lu in the Jinniu District—金牛区抚琴路).
How do you describe your neighborhood's location to people who've never heard of it? Northwest of the First Ring Road. I tell cab drivers "Ximen Che Zhan"; that's what they all call it.
When and why did you move there? Ten months ago because it was really convenient to where I used to work. It's in the city but on the way to the northwest. From there I could take one bus to Xipu, where I used to work.
What keeps you there? A lease.
What makes you consider moving? My work is really far from where I live now. That's the main reason. Other than that it's not so bad, except that the management fees in the building where I live are pretty expensive for the services they provide.
How often do you see foreigners in your neighborhood (other than any you live with)? There's a couple other foreigners living in my building. They work at schools or universities nearby, like Jiaotong University or the minorities university. I see them at the KFC nearby.
Do you have any funny/weird/heartrending stories about things that have happened to you there? I saved a girl's life yesterday! As I was going home there was this girl crying and walking down the middle of the street. I tried pulling her out of the street, and then she tried jumping in front of a bus and I pulled her back. I flagged a cop car down and told them she tried jumping in front of a bus and left it to them.
What's your favorite local green/outdoor space? There's Kuanzhai Xiangzi, which isn't too far. There's a park near there. Or if you ride a little farther there's the park next to Dufu's Cottage. That would be my favorite green space. I think it's way better than People's Park.
What's your favorite neighborhood restaurant? It's a tiny little place. I don't know the name. It's next to the camera market. That's the other thing I love about where I live—it's next to the camera market. But it the restaurant serves good chuancai, and it's pretty damn cheap. It's good but it's nothing fancy.
If I go exploring in your neighborhood, which place(s) should I be sure not to miss? The camera market. For anything camera-related, you go to the camera market [Xishu Camera at 12 Wenjia Xiang is a good starting point - 文家巷12号西蜀相机—ed.]. There's also Kuanzhai Xiangzi. There's also Yong's Mausoleum and a big park next to that. There are also a lot of cool street-food places in my neighborhood, a lot of shaokao places. It's not far from Carrefour, Auchan, and Platinum City, so you can get a decent selection of Western food without too much work.
How's transportation? Easy. It's right on the First Ring Road, and you're not far from the Second Ring Road. There are a lot of buses. It's 25 minutes biking, 1 hour by bus, or 20 min by cab (RMB17) to the south part of the city.
Do you live a long way from Chengdu's usual laowai stomping grounds? E-mail shawna [DOT] williams [AT] gmail [DOT] com to tell me about it.