Seniors create little corner of China in garden

Updated: 2015-08-05 09:44

By HEZI JIANG in New Haven, Connecticut(China Daily USA)

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Seniors create little corner of China in garden

Zhang Zaixian, 63, posing on July 29 with the red cowpeas she grew in a garden near Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. HEZI JIANG / CHINA DAILY

After her husband took her grandson to school, Zhang Zaixian, 63, pushed a converted baby stroller to a garden steps away from her apartment on the northern edge of Yale University. Inside the stroller, there were three 1-gallon milk bottles filled with fresh tap water, along with a plastic bucket to bring back garden harvests.

Zhang and her husband have stayed in New Haven, Connecticut, the past six months to look after their 3-year-old grandson, taking their turns with the in-laws as their daughter does postdoctoral research at Yale.

There are 81 families at the Yale-owned apartment complex where Zhang resides, and according to the residents, members of more than 70 households are from China. Almost every family has one or two children.

About a quarter of all international students at Yale are from China, the top source by far for international students in the United States. Yale, which in 1854 graduated the first Chinese person from a US college, had 680 international scholars, 516 graduate students and 58 undergraduates from China last year, according to The Associated Press.

"Most families have the grandparents here taking care of the young," Zhang said. "Very few don't."

During the day, when the parents are working, and the children are at school, the neighborhood becomes a playground for seniors.

Some grow vegetables and herbs, some exercise and socialize, and some do both.

Because of a small-vessel disease, Zhang had not been physically active the past few years in China. But now, she is in charge of about 100 square feet of land in one of the two gardens, each about the size of an Olympic pool. The gardens are tended by the Chinese families living at the apartment complex, and they work for hours cultivating, planting, watering and harvesting vegetables.

"Because of my health issues, my husband didn't let me farm in the beginning. He told me, 'I will take out whatever you plant in!' " said Zhang. Regardless, she planted some seeds given to her by the neighbors, and when the chives grew tall, Zhang made chive dumplings.

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