Leaving Pudong Airport on the way to Guilin, I spot this little old lady and think that she is blog-worthy. She is under 4′ tall, I think, so short that I notice her, dressed in her drab Chairman Mao jacket and following behind her married child and his wife or her husband – I can’t tell which. She strives to fit into the landscape, make herself unobtrusive, invisible. Certainly, she says not a word, will be no problem, is glad to be included – or maybe not, maybe she wishes she had stayed home in her comfortable room, surrounded by neighbours and neighbourhood that she understands. Here she is in Pudong Airport, probably bigger than anything she has ever imagined or can understand and patiently waits to be told what to do next. What should she do next? Stay in queue, wait to be summoned, approach the ticket takers. Son or daughter takes care of all business, she shuffles along. What stories could she tell? She lived through Chairmen Mao’s reign, probably the Kuomintang as well. Did she suffer during the Cultural Revolution? Where is her husband? What happened to her parents? Did she have any siblings? Can she fathom her grandchildren, tall and healthy? How on earth are they possible?
The role of the elderly in China is not one that all of us would enjoy. It is decidedly not about retirement, putting one’s feet up, maybe traveling the world. No, it is more about bringing up grandkids, following your children with their children into the malls and markets, waiting to be asked to carry groceries or a child, cooking meals and cleaning house. Sometimes you become a member of your child’s household and it is expected that you will do your part. Above all, the babies come first. The princes and princesses of the universe assume their place at the center of the family.
Here is another old woman who spent one season too many in the rice terraces. Look in the distance in this picture and you will see her walking. Yes, she is bent virtually in half. She is not bending down; she cannot straighten up. This is in a small Chinese village outside of Yangshou where we went to have a look at how the rural people live.
Back in Jiaxing, we head south on our first Sunday back to walk through a more affluent neighbourhood. First we take the bus through Nanhu, a district that bounds the lake of the same name. We come across this signpost advertising a new shopping area and apartment complex, get off the bus and walk.
Now it’s not in the middle of a traffic circle but it is a life sized model of the real thing. We said Paris, didn’t we?
We’re not 100% clear about the function of this miniature palace–perhaps its the clubhouse for the apartment complex? We did notice a new bride and groom passing through it for photographs so maybe it has facilities for banquets. In any case, not much expense was spared to replicate these French icons.
The French, of course, would never desecrate their buildings with such a crass objet d’art but if they did, you can be assured it would be spelled correctly!
We don’t have a great picture but we can tell you that surrounding this area was a vast amount of perfect patio space for dining al fresco and drinking the perfect glass of cold beer or wine. But nary a one in sight. Even the 4 small tables outside Geoff’s Starbuck’s are gone. When he asked, he was told the government won’t allow it. The Chinese can build great French or Italian knock-offs but they’ve got a long way to go to copy the lifestyle! Missing a great thing! Our mission is to find at least one place in Jiaxing where we can sit on a patio and drink a cold beer. Really, that’s not asking too much, is it?