The photo above was taken by the West Lake. Many couples come from far and wide to have their photos taken at the West Lake. The lake is the location of are several famous romantic tales.
This group of photos were taken during my first few months of my twelve years living in China. I had to take a university bus for over an hour once a week to the outskirts of the city. The once rural area was undergoing massive urbanization. At the same time I became the chief editor and lead writer for a province-wide monthly magazine and weekly newspaper. The offices were in a villa near an ancient Taoist temple to the God of Luck, the National Silk Museum and the world-famous West Lake. The entrance to the office was through an old village.
This is the side of the home of the woman who cooked and cleaned for the magazine. Every day around Noon, she would bring in several larger dishes and a huge rice cooker. She would shout up the stairs “Kai Fen Le” – Come and get it. Tony, my scholarly coworker, would shout down Lai Le – Coming. I got to know the staff very well during our shared meals.
This is one of several village dogs hanging out around the office. I never petted a dog once in China because of the prevalence of rabies.
This is from the window of the university bus. I always caught the 6:30 bus. People would be on their way to work early. This was still before Hangzhou became an economic powerhouse, and so there were fewer cars.
China of the early 21st Century was in a state of flux. There was construction everywhere you looked. Bricks, cement, sand, rebar and corrugated steel were stacked everywhere.
At many main intersections guys on motorcycles sat and waited to do day labor. They also serve as inexpensive taxis from bus stops. You can see the little kid standing on the e-bike in the foreground. Little kids learn how to hang on at an early age.
This is a typical “farmer’s house”. Sometimes the government would give people money for the land they farmed. As farmers moved from the rural area to the outskirts of cities, they would build these multi-storied homes or buy apartments, like these below. Note the giant recycling center next to the farm fields. The cement road is typical of new countryside road construction. Most of the traffic comes from motorcycles, small three-wheeled arts and ever present silver-gray vans.
I took this photo from the university bus. I think it captures the lightning speed of urbanization. The small farmhouse stands at the razor’s edge of progress, as a colossal wall of apartments encroaches on their ancestral grounds.
Hangzhou’s Silk Street has been in the same general area for over one thousand years. The retro mannequins always struck me as a holdover from the former Soviet influence. Hangzhou was one of the starting points for the Silk Road. Silk and textiles are still huge businesses throughout the area. I bought a large bag of silk cocoons once to use for my kids’ classes. Unraveling silk is an art-form. People eat the silk worms after they boil the cocoons. My wife said they taste okay, but I never was brave enough to find out for myself 🙂
This little fairy castle rising from the cramp cityscape caught my eye. It was a façade for a kindergarten (daycare). Kindergartens in every neighborhood. There is one less than 100 meters from my in-laws apartment. Believe me, you do not want to be in the same block as a Chinese kindergarten when the kids go out to play. But the energetic, rambunctious kids are fun to watch when they are playing.
I lived near the 1700 kilometer Grand Canal for five years. The oldest parts are over 2500 years old, but the various sections started to be connected over 1500 years ago. Near my apartment there was a place where the Emperor would moor his royal barge. The restaurant there was constructed to resemble the Qianlong Emperor’s opulent boat. The city of Hangzhou operates water taxis on the canal, and they are a cheap (fifty cents), fun way to see parts of the city from a new perspective. The canal connects to several large ports near Hangzhou.
Grade school through university students have military training every year. Some students enjoy it because they get to go outside, but it can be very hot. The military sends instructors to teach the students discipline and how to march. At the end of their “training” they have a grand assembly. I have no comments about that. These are a group of my first university students assembled on the basketball courts near my university apartment. For twelve years, I pretty much steered clear of military training. I have no further comments.
The photo below is of the closest McDonald’s to my neighborhood in Hangzhou. I will never forget visiting McDonald’s during my first visit to China back in 2004. I felt compelled to go. From the vantage point of an outdoor table I could see the Chairman Mao portrait hanging on Tiananmen (Gate of Heavenly Peace). I had a Big Mac and pondered the bittersweet juxtaposition of cultures in a rapidly modernizing 21st Century China. McD’s was one of my go to places whenever I needed a fix of American flavor, as were Subway, KFC, Pizza Hut, DQ – but for ninety-nine percent of the time, I ate at home and enjoyed the best cooking in China – my wife’s.