Liuzhou, People’s Republic of China, (2010)
Before our move, when we asked other expatriates already living in China what to expect, and they discovered that we would be living in Liuzhou, the unanimous response was “Liuzhou, eh? Well… you will get to see the ‘Real China'”. It was that slight pause before responding and the inferred air quotes around the words “Real China” that had given me some inital cause for worry. But having seen idyllic scenes like the one above, just outside our small city of 1.5 million, I am glad we ended up in Liuzhou. And what could be considered more “Real China” than a man in a woven bamboo hat in a rice field?
Of course there is more to the ‘Real China’ than rice and hats. There is the seemingly unrestrained chaos that rules the roads in Liuzhou. Electric scooters piloted by anyone with enough money to buy one (no license or idea how to operate one required) share the roadways with dangerously overloaded trucks and gravel haulers that leave a trail of bouncing rock and gravel behind them as they lurch through potholes. People on scooters can go anywhere, and often do; they careen through shoppers in the outdoor markets on scooter so they don’t have to pay to park it outside. My favorite form of cardiac arrest these days is a scooter horn blasting from immediately behind me on the sidewalk, which the driver is using to go against traffic because he is too lazy to cross the street in order to go with traffic in the designated lane on the other side. This blatant disregard for rules, regulations or plain common sense is not without it’s price; almost every day I see an accident involving a scooter. The accidents are often serious, especially for the scooter rider, as the cheaply made e-bikes offer little by the way of protection from cars, trucks, stationary objects or even each other. And that’s just the scooters, don’t get us on the car drivers (Gary says “Worst Drivers Evah!” I think the only thing that keeps more people from being out and out killed is the disorganizaton itself, the confusion makes it quite difficult to go very fast, so many accidents happen at lower speeds.
But scooters in the market aside, I love going there to shop for fresh fruits and vegetables, and many other things. Spices, fish, freshly made tofu, homemade noodles, they have it all. I always end up buying more than our two person household can consume.
Speaking of household, here are some pictures of where we live.