Saturday, September 27, 2008

China looks like the future

There's a cinematic quality to this part of China; a post-apocalyptic, science-fiction sense of ancient culture struggling with modern technology in a crumbling world.

The back porch of my apartment overlooks a small street. Cars don't fit there, but in the day it's usually busy with bicycles and pedestrians. You can have your hair cut there for 3 rmb (less than 50 cents US). For 4rmb you can have your hair washed as well as cut. Of course there is a 10 minute massage included in the price.

Today I watched a small man, probably in his 60's, making his way down the street with a bamboo pole over one shoulder. At either end of the pole were cloth bags full of who-knows-what. He wore a conical bamboo hat, a simple white shirt, ratty pants, and sandals. His ancestors a thousand years ago might have worn clothes that didn't look much different, and carried burdens the same way. I watched him trudge slowly through a sea of younger, much taller Chinese in knock-off Versace sunglasses or G-Unit t-shirts, some waving their arms as they yelled into their bluetooth devices, others herding young children with LED's flashing in the soles of their shoes. I followed his progress down the street as he appeared and disappeared in the crowd, until finally I couldn't see him anymore.

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