Saturday, November 7, 2009

Fall in Guangzhou--2

(The Chinese pack mule.)

I'm still not sure exactly what it is about this place, but I get such a vibe from Guangzhou. Some of it is obviously the foreign-ness of the place to an American, and I daresay I felt it on my single visit to Shanghai as well (so is it China? Or urban China?). This isn't a big enough sample for me to suss it all out properly, but there's just something in the air here. I think part of the vibe comes from population density, something to which I always respond positively (and something almost universally reviled by my coworkers). This is the New York or Chicago of a foreign people; so the thrust is not lost on me even if the details almost entirely are.

I also think--I've said it before, I know--the electricity in the air stems at least in part from the ancient country exploding with growth and commerce and possibility. Young people are fashionably dressed and engaged in all manner of self-improvement (at least economic self-improvement, though everyone appears well-educated), but they spring from households and parents with a foot in a very different kind of past. I think this mixing of worlds, and the rapidity of the change, plays a role in the personality of Guangzhou.

There's so much I'll probably never know about this place, which doubtless contributes to my sense of intrigue about it. I'm inclined to look into studying a bit of Chinese, as I expect I'll have regular means of using it here. (I looked into Mandarin versus Cantonese: Cantonese, naturally, is spoken in this area here--Guangzhou being formerly known as Canton--and in nearby Hong Kong, which is one of the main commercial engines of China. But Mandarin is the official language and is spoken most everywhere else. More intriguing yet is that the two languages are written exactly the same! The difference is in how one speaks what is written down.)

(Inside a toy market.)

(Having no idea what any of this stuff is, we've taken to calling this landmark the "Jetson Mosque.")

(A bicycle garage near the Baiyun purse & leather market. That's the whole of the shop.)

(Lunchtime on the street.)

(One of a zillion little convenience booths around the city.)

(Bamboo construction scaffolding.)

(I thought private enterprise couldn't get much smaller than that bicycle shop. I was wrong.)

(Concrete mixing on the street: pile ingredients together; collect water in a hole in the center; scoop out as needed.)

(Air compressor powered by an old chuffing one-lung diesel running full-tilt at about 500 rpms.)

(The McDonald's by the hotel.)

(A first: a little hand-washing kiosk in McDonald's. Note the 7-11 in the mall thru the door. The Chinese do love their 7-11s!)

( be continued.)

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