(Note, this is an answer to a Plinky promt “Describe the community you live in, as if it were the setting for a book.”)
The number 21 bus takes a route from the far side of the city towards Scheveningen through a street of nineteenth century row houses, some of them are plastered white, some are plane brown-red bricks. Most houses still have their stained glass windows, the street has a stately feel to it.
At the beginning of the street the houses have a front garden, the rest of the houses have their door directly at the side-walk.
The house I grew up in is number 118, a big four bedroom two storey top house.
My father still lives there and every time I go to visit him I feel like coming home even though I moved out and made my home nearer to the centre nine years ago.
I still miss Scheveningen which isn’t far away from where I live.
I miss the little streets farther toward the beach in the old town centre, the people and the way they talk; it’s home. When it’s dreary or when mist makes it so you can’t see across the street you can smell the ocean, fresh and salty.
Scheveningen used to be a small fisherman’s town founded during the tenth or eleventh century, until the Scheveningseweg, a stone roadway, was laid in 1665, which connected Scheveningen and Den Haag. The town grew, but was partially destroyed by the Germans in 1942 because it was declared to be a Sperrgebiet. People had to be evacuated, the beach was forbidden area and the Atlantikwall was built, a wall stretching from the Nordkapp to the French – Spanish boarder to defend against the allies.
After the war the town was rebuild, modern houses arose, today there isn’t much left of the original Old Town. The town is now completely emerged in Den Haag, but most of the original people from Scheveningen still feel very “Schevenings” and proud of it.
During the summer tourists flood the city and town, especially Germans. In that time the beaches and streets are buzzing with life. Every year tourist get into trouble with the sea, which at times has a strong under current, or the sand, a lot of Scheveningers still make jokes (even though the event is quite sad) about the German dude who dug a hole at the foot of a dune and buried himself alive when the whole thing caved in.
After the bus made it’s last turn it approaches it’s final stop close to the dunes. Crickets song accompanied by the distant thunder of waves welcome me as I walk towards the beach. Up the hill I stretch to catch my first glance of the ocean. In the winter I don’t visit the beach often, only occasionally to clear my head, but during the summer and have the chance I live here, only going home to sleep.
This was before I moved, I took a plane and it landed in Shanghai. The neighbourhood I live in now is so different and at the same time similar to where I grew up.
The pink flats stand out against the clear blue sky, the bushes and trees are well kept and the streets are being cleared of rubbish constantly. There are two little squares with benches where people sit and enjoy the shade and company of others, where children play and groups exercise or practise morning dances.
Every group of apartment buildings, some seventeen floors high, are surrounded by low stone or iron walls with big entrance gates, these are called neighbourhoods.
This way all the neighbourhoods are fairly quiet and feel like little villages even though more than twenty million people live in the city and it’s outskirts.
Shanghai is the biggest city of China and with the amount of people living in it the biggest community in the world.
Shanghai, which literally means above the sea, started out as a fisherman’s town, but grew out to a metropolitan city after the Nanking Treaty with the UK in 1842 and now has the biggest port of the world.
Upon exiting the gate of my neighbourhood I wave goodbye to the gate keeper, I make an effort to be friendly to gate keepers, even though I don’t speak any Chinese, because having them as your “friend” might come in handy some day.
The streets are always busy with cars, buses, motorcycles and bicycles, and it’s always noisy since everyone uses their horns or bells to let other road users know they are there. Traffic lights are ignored when ever possible by all road users and at times even the traffic direction is too much hassle to take in account. Using the curb is also useful for a lot of cyclists, motorized or not, to escape from the busy traffic on the actual roads during peak hours, all the while ringing bells and honking horns, just so the pedestrians know their on their way to almost collied with you.
The street my neighbourhood is located has little shops selling food, ranging from fruits to dumplings, there is a car wash that insures a constantly wet side walk and on the corner is a fancy restaurant where I have never eaten. There is also a news-stand, some more restaurants and a family mart where I get my morning diet Coke fix every day. In the evening there is always a group playing Mah Jong, sometimes for fun, sometimes for money. They have invited me to play once but I was to shy and insecure about my Mah Jong playing skills to take the offer. So every now and then I watch them play while smoking a cigarette and having a drink. Time and time again I’m amazed at how fast they are.
p.s. to be continued