A day in the life of a Chinese community

Updated: 2015-04-21 09:06

By teamkrejados(blog.chinadaily.com.cn)

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During lunchtime it is difficult to do anything on the Internet. Almost everyone here has a wireless connection. We all broadcast on the same band, clogging the network. Only after everyone returns to work at 1:30PM, am I able to surf the ‘Net again. Following a flurry of voices, engines and footfalls on the pavement as everyone reverts to money making status, again that deep silence, underscored by the rhythmic thump of machinery in the distance. Sometimes I am lulled to sleepiness. Usually I resist napping.

My next-door neighbor one stairwell over likes to wash clothes during that time. She washes her clothes in the bathroom. I can hear the water draining as she repeatedly dumps the contents of her washtub out, and then I hear water whistling through the pipes as she fills it again. I know when she is wringing her clothes out: I can hear the water patter down. From the sounds I deduce she washes her clothes by hand. Nearly every day is laundry day for her.

4PM: people start coming home, bearing small plastic bags with crowns of vegetables peeking out. Soon will come the sounds of chopping and rinsing. They are harder to distinguish this time because children are returning home from school. Freed from the tyranny of education and basking in the great outdoors, they give their liberty free rein: shouting, running, playing. Some are interrogated by their parents and grandparents. Those that are pace sedately next to their elders. On the other side of the housing area, at the basketball courts enthusiastic spectators shout ‘Jia You! Jia You! – ‘Go on! Go on!’ There must be a game going on.

Between 4:30 and 5:00PM. The office workers leave. Those that live offsite hurry for the shuttle buses that will take them into town while those that live in the complex wend their way home. The bulk of the community folk arrive. Children set about their homework. I can hear mothers admonish them to stay on task. Chairs scrape floors as the little ones settle in and apply themselves. Cars come and they go. Doors slam, music plays, engines rev. We exchange the cars of the day workers for the cars of those that live here. Sometimes a car alarm will go off. People don’t necessarily park their cars close to where they live so the alarm keeps blasting with nobody to shut it off. Amidst all the other sounds, this one is particularly irritating.

During this time I start rousing out of my afternoon stupor. Even though I usually don’t nap, these quiet afternoons put me almost a twilight state, like a dimly lit stage waiting for the actors to bring it to life. Lounging on the couch, I see a neighborhood cat trespass onto my living room balcony. Mr. Orange Tomkitty must think something in my house smells enticing. Kept out by the screen, he rubs up against my partially open door and meows. A passing maintenance man on a bicycle inadvertently frightens him away.

Now looking out my kitchen window, waiting for the kettle to boil I see grandmothers toting their charges’ book bags while the young ones scamper about. I start getting hungry. So is everyone else.

Between 5:30 and 6:30, nothing but the clatter of crockery and the clicking of chopsticks. Again construction noise is stilled during the meal break. Every once in a while a youth from the OTW community will come through, dribbling a basketball. That hollow thunking provides an interlude for the evening’s comings and goings.

6:30PM: a child screams as though tortured. Walking up the main avenue that travels between buildings the length of the housing area, I hear her first from my kitchen window, and then an amplification as her cries echoes between edifices. The sound then comes from the living room side of the apartment and travels, hauntingly, till she reaches home. Interspersed among her wails an adult voice intones. Whatever that adult is saying seems to send her to ever greater paroxysms of agony. For 5 minutes or so we are treated to the sounds of this child, screaming and crying. You can almost set your watch by her.

I’m not sure I wanted to get this intimately familiar with Chinese community living. For the longest time I harbored this vision of harmonious cohabitation. Everyone is polite. Everyone gets along. Children are revered and never, ever tortured or abused.

The author is an English teacher from the United States in Wuhan of Central China’s Hubei province.

The original story here: http://blog.chinadaily.com.cn/blog-1372409-28277.html


A day in the life of a Chinese community


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