Migrant workers in Beijing.

What you see above is a migrant worker hut. A frame of bamboo or off-cut metal tubing pieces surrounded by sheets of weathered plastic all held together in the hopes it will stay intact till the next morning. There’s basic electricity running to it through thin lines that enable a couple of string lights to illuminate, and a hot plate or two to heat food with. Bedding takes the form of free-stand cots and people are sleeping two or three heads high. Insulation is whatever blanket you can find. Tonight will be about three degrees Celsius, and temperatures are dropping daily.

I was told about two hundred million citizens fill the lower-class title in China. Many were born in the countryside and traded toiling land for turning concrete in hopes of becoming a part of the high-rise economy China is heavily invested in cultivating. In all honesty, I think most of them become a part of the high-rise economy when their overworked bodies are thrown into the churning mixer and poured back into a new building – an oversized tombstone if you will.

It’s mind blowing seeing the vicious treatment of class here, and how it’s controlled. A co-worker and I walked past the building site you see above and wondered why there isn’t any consideration for unions, for outcry, for riots against this unjustness. With over a hundred million people being worked to the bone, the efforts to change their circumstances appeared to us as nonexistent.

We came to this conclusion – if you price basic rights like education and healthcare outside the financial realm of the lower-class, then what little of a bone they’re thrown is enough to drive production forward. More than that, the tiniest increment in finances is enough to give many of these people something more valuable that an extra .20c in the bank account – it gives them hope by providing security for their child. More money means their kid might have a chance at education, at aiming for a better life. Whether that actually works I cannot comment. But by shifting hope to the future, you certainly guarantee the complete obedience of the present day sufferers.

E.

Advertisements

Watermelon eating competition.

watermelon

In the furthest corner of the Feige vintage fair a table filled with cut watermelon slices lay in the sun while a crowd of about a dozen gathered closer to it. One gentleman, a pot-bellied Chinese lad in a white t-shirt, black trackies and dark RayBan-esque sunglasses, approached and lifted from the table one of the larger slices, a crescent that arced the entire length of the now dissected fruit.

He stood back and off to one side of the table, holding his piece close to his chest, and surveyed the crowd. He was looking for a challenger.

I and a small group of friends had also gathered around the other side of the table when seeing such a spread of abandoned fruit, and, sensing this was about to turn into an eating competition, Chris, my software developing British friend, stepped away from us and selected a similar watermelon slice; a nonverbal agreement that he was to be the other competitor.

A judge appeared, stepped between the two men, and counted down.

3…

2…

1…

EAT!

Gnashing growls filled the air and the juices of eviscerated watermelon sloshed down from the mouths of both men. As the battle quickly drew to a slippery conclusion the steely-faced determination of the Chinese national proved to be too much for Chris, and he slowed down to accept his defeat graciously (and possibly burp up one or two watermelon seeds). The Chinese national accepted his DVD reward, and walked away a champion.

While Chris cleaned himself off with a wet wipe, two new challengers stepped forward. Younger girls, one about 14 years, the other maybe 11 years, chose two smaller pyramidal shaped pieces to duel with. The older girl giggled and held her piece in one loosely gripping hand, smiling and waving at her friends. The younger girl stood in silence, before sliding her legs out to the side in a semi battle stance. Her piece was held with both hands just under her lower lip, and her eyes narrowed.

The judge appeared again and began the countdown.

3…

2…

1…

EAT!

I have a question to ask now: Have you ever been so excited to win a watermelon eating competition that your eyes rolled to the back of your head and your facials became so intense that you would make a prime candidate for a remake of ‘The Exorcist’?

If I had known the fate that would befall that small, innocent, watermelon slice, I might have asked for a moment of silence. The juices exploding from the ravaging this young competitor was giving to her watermelon was hypnotic to watch, a pink waterfall of carnage falling down. I don’t think she was chewing, merely mashing her face into it with the force of how a woodpecker turns a tree stump into sawdust.

As victory approached for the young girl her final bite into the fruit turned into a victory fist, the skin of the now defeated watermelon held tightly in her right hand as a show of triumph. I imagine she took it home to add to her trophy pelt collection that is stacked up against her DVD winnings.

On a side-note I also rode a penny-farthing at the fair! This was undoubtedly the oddest balancing act I have ever performed. What should have resulted in a dapper moment turned into me being stuck in a left-only rotation to which the bike did not want to relent.

E.