These next ideas come to mind I think back on our recent week in Shanghai and while walking in Jiaxing this blustery January 2nd.
I was under the mistaken impression that there is not much homelessness in China. Not true, according to China Today and other sources. The places hardest hit are the big urban centers where migrants head to seek gainful employment. What they find instead is work that keeps them well below the poverty line (if there is such a thing in China) and makes upward mobility impossible. Migrant workers are forced to the suburbs, which become ghettos. This may well be what is pictured in the photo of an area on the way to Jiaxing South Train Station. Shanghai’s population grows by 10% per year and much of that is migrant population, so one concludes that their homelessness is rampant but invisible to those living more affluently.
On the up side, good healthy food is one of the cheapest commodities in China. We have already commented on the abundance and variety of beautiful, fresh vegetables and fruit. In Canada, these are among the costliest things in an average food basket but here, a family can eat relatively well for very little, at least it seems so to us. MacDonald’s does not provide a cheap alternative here as their food is equivalent in price to what it costs in Canada.
Speaking of food, Shanghai is very much like Vancouver in that it is easy to have ethnic fare. We have eaten lots of different Chinese foods, including hot pot and Yunnan, as well as Thai, Indian, Italian, Indonesian and Korean. You can easily find Swiss, German, French, Canadian and American spots in Shanghai. Not quite the choices in Jiaxing but enough variety to keep it interesting.
We went to the circus in Shanghai. Oh, I know what you’re thinking but really, it was amazing. It was called ERA, the Intersection of Time. Frankly, I have no idea how the title relates to what we saw but perhaps it may come to me (or you) as I explain the show. Think Ed Sullivan for the girls on bicycles, back- flipping from one to another, stacking finally 3 or 4 girls to a bike; the plates being twirled impossibly on sticks, 3 held in each hand, while the girls bent over backwards; the gent catching a heavy glazed pot on his forehead and keeping it balanced. Then there were the other acts: the show starter was a demonstration of amazing strength–a woman stood on one hand on a pedestal which rose about 10 feet in the air, then kept this position while gracefully moving her body above her arm. She changed hands several times but remained on the pedestal, held only by one hand, for too long to imagine ever being able to do such a thing. A couple performed a ballet in the air as they too demonstrated amazing strength, sailing on ribbons of silk wrapped around their biceps and holding on to each other by a single foot or hand. But the real thrill came when 8 motorcyclists rode inside a giant mesh ball without colliding into each other. It was truly entertaining stuff, accompanied by a live band and a terrific female singer.
Two final observations from our Jiaxing Starbuck’s location: Chinese prefer to carry their infant children rather than use strollers. I have seen only one stroller in Jiaxing and a few more in Shanghai, mostly pushed by Caucasians. My feet hurt just looking at the parents or grandparents carrying their growing bundles in their arms. As soon as they can toddle, however, the kids do most of the walking.
Today I saw a Chinese James Dean, perched seductively upon his parked scooter, cigarette in mouth, black leather jacket open to the cold. He looked every bit the bad boy, with the dude haircut and eyes squinting against the smoke curling into them. Some things never change, I guess.
Lastly, we are gleefully watching a duo of workers prepare to install a new AC/heater unit in our apartment. Thank-you, Mr. Zhao! I have been so uncomfortable, I thought it might be the end of me. Especially when we return from being away, the apartment is so cold it simply cannot warm up with our three little heaters. So within the hour, comfort shall be ours! I am a little worried about how they are going to hang the unit off the side of the 9th floor, in the dark, but hey, I don’t have to look! Remember, health and safety. Geoff will posting a video soon – watch for it.