From Hutong to High-Rise: I moved

Posted on September 18, 2012


My new home is very different to the hutong. I have moved out of a living relic of ancient China and been thrust into the heart of modern aspirations in Beijing. My hutong was so quiet and dark at night, I could not tell I was living in a city of 25 million people. My little home at the eye of the storm, was silent and outside of time. If I felt lonely, I would open the kitchen door and see if Moumou was in the yard, and if Moumou was not outside, she’d come soon enough and lean herself against me. From my perspective now, it seems like this courtyard home, with sweet Chinese neighbours, hutong dogs and a feeling of security and peace in the heart of a community, was a dream, a fantasy to be indulged in. From the first time I saw that big shaggy dog Moumou, I immediately loved her.

However, life brings along strange changes, and since February I have moved into an apartment with a new love and now live on the 35th floor in the heart of the business district. It’s a ‘community’ – there’s a lot of space between the apartments to hang out with your dogs, babies, or sit outside drinking coffee or eating pizza. However, not the hundred dogs there must be here can replace Moumou. But there is a puppy called Lucy who lives on the 3rd floor and I am planning to steal her. She is no more than 20cm long nose-to-tail, brown and curly-haired, and is just a ball of fluff that falls over herself in excitement. One of her owners is a very tall English man, and when they stopped to talk with me for a while, Lucy was impatiently posturing and looking a long way up at her care-taker, wondering what the delay was in getting on with the walk. She had things to do.

The best thing about Beijing may very well be the dogs. And the advantage of the business district, is that dogs sometimes wear shoes, sneakers and booties! Though I did find that the dog-fashion was better in the hutong area in old Beijing. They were much more into dog-garments than footwear. I saw some crazy stuff. Like a really weird dream, it’s hard to remember it later, but I know it was crazy. I’m getting vibes about a sailor suit…

Apart from Moumou, who is about the size of a small pony, Beijing, and maybe all of China has a vast array of tiny dogs, much better tiny dogs than you will have seen elsewhere I bet. They are like living toys, and seem to know their main purpose is to be cute, and be reasonably compliant with what that entails. If you’ve ever had a Yorkshire Terrier, you will know there is not a chance in hell in getting a set of shoes on its paws.

I only just gave up my hutong home last weekend, but hadn’t really lived there since March. I went on a business trip to Australia in March and when I returned, my new love picked me up at the airport and I never really went home again. Now I am surrounded by the nightly twinkling lights of the skyscrapers of the CBD (Central Business District). Its never dark here. Although I sometimes miss the dream, I was getting a little tired of the dustiness, cold water washing machine, frequent drain-smell in the bathroom, extreme temperatures, unfiltered polluted air, no convenient supermarket and my electricity running out at really awkward times. I feel I’ve earned my right to eat expat croissants from the bakery downstairs every day if I want.

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