Long time no post, I’m sorry. There’s not even a good story to serve as an excuse. The sad and boring truth is that actually I am working full time and as Dolly Parton once so wisely said:
Tumble outta bed
And stumble to the kitchen
Pour myself a cup of ambition
Yawnin’ and stretchin’ and try to come to life
Jump in the shower
And the blood starts pumpin’
Out on the streets
The traffic starts jumpin’
With folks like me on the job from 9 to 5
Despite the fact I am living and working in a foreign and exciting country, my daily life isn’t as full of excitement as you might expect of one so bold as to write a blog. My work day is long (8:15am-5:45pm) and working in Chinese is exhausting. It generally consumes me for the weekdays. The weekend is often hijacked by the fact that many basic life admin tasks just take longer here and that leaves me without much time to have adventures to blog about, let alone write them up!
In my defence, the whole idea (as you may remember) was sparked by the simple delight of Campari on the flight over here. If only life was always as easy and exciting as a Singapore airlines long-haul flight. If only.
So this post is more about boring old life, less about excitement such as the luxuries of airline travel.
There are things I see here that I would never see at home. Things that are so normal for Chinese people, and that almost blend into the daily grind of normality here. But these things are very different to what you’d see in the daily life of a nine to fiver at home, and they make me realise why this country is so fascinating and why I am so glad to be doing what I am doing here. I’m going to tell you about one.
Despite the fact that China’s GDP is set to overtake the US by 2019 (or whatever the current estimate is), the majority of people are still dirt poor. And when I say dirt poor, I mean considerably worse off than the aggrieved $150 thousand Aussie battler. It’s true that there are now some very very rich Chinese people. Maybe not quite at the level of that Russian tycoon, Uri Whatshisface, who I recently learned purchased the most expensive house ever sold inCalifornia-for the tidy sum of US$100 million. Wow. It’s also true that the Chinese government has a LOT of money. Nevertheless, in China the percentage of people that get to live a comfortable life is piddling. Let me put it in perspective. My meagre AusAid monthly living allowance is more than my boss earns. And by our standards, it really is Meagre (ungrammatical capital M intended). In fact it’s more than twice what she earns, and she is the Director of the organisation. But she’s not even who I am talking about. By Chinese standards, she’s actually not doing too badly. She could earn quite a bit more working in any other profession than a disability NGO, especially considering her credentials. Regardless, she does ok and she’s an amazing person, and since she personally started up the organisation nine years ago, I don’t think she’ s considered selling out for a second. As I said, she’s not who this observation is about. It’s about the two men who live in the construction site in front of my office building. I’m not entirely sure what they’re erecting, or who it is they’re actually working for. What I do know is the intimate details of their daily routine, as they’re forced to live it out in front of anyone who walks past, because the walls have yet been built.
When I first arrived, these two men had a relatively good set up. They shared a little brick box on the site; with four solid walls (one wall had a large door sized gap-but no door). They each had a sort of camp bed and a basin for washing, although I’m not sure where they filled it up, because the brick box certainly did not have running water. Then one day, all of a sudden, the brick box was no more. It was there when i arrived at work in the morning, but when I went out at lunch there was nothing of it left. The few belongings these men owned had been bundled up and now sat in an empty, wall-less shell in another part of the site. The wall-less shell is now their home. As I said before about crazy things almost blending into normality, their beds don’t even look out of place sitting there. I am not surprised or shocked when I walk past them sprawled out, shirtless, snoring loudly in the lunchbreak (in China lunch is two hours, which allows for a postprandial snooze). I considered adding a photo, and then decided against it. It’s my own way of trying to give them something we never even consider as a luxury, the privacy of four walls.
I do know no one likes to read text with no pictures, so instead I will give you a photo of a place where I found myself eating dinner a few days ago. The restaurant had a large catwalk down the middle of the dining room, on which a loud and colourful fashion parade was taking place. I suppose it’s not that strange, food and fashion are often put into one category. They also had an intricate wine service, which I liked. Our bottle of very cheap, imported Australian wine was decanted and then served in a series of small jugs. Better still, this service was entirely free of charge. What you read is true: wine is certainly the new, hot, up-and-coming thing here. Wine bars are cropping up, you can order it at many restaurants now, but they have yet to cotton on to charging for BYO. I will enjoy this while it lasts.