Living on the 21st floor!
01/19/2013 - 01/20/2013
The only thing I can remember from the first night in Guangzhou was what felt like a constant reminder from Skyler that he could not sleep. I drifted in and out of sleep for three hours, and finally had to get up when both kids refused to stay in bed anymore. This made the morning seem long, but also gave me enough time to unpack and get organized.
Zhexiong lives in a gated community that includes three high rise apartment complexes, each with about 23 stories. For each complex, there are four to five vertical columns with separate entrances, each equipped with an elevator that leads to the stories above. The first floor is the lobby with high ceilings that provides two elevators and two stairways. Each floor of each column has 6 apartments. This gives a total of about 13*23*6=1794 apartments. Assuming an average of 4 people living in an apartment, the whole community would have at least 7176 residents. This most likely is an underestimate of the population, as many households consist of three generations. We have not seen many young moms or dads playing with children at the playground. Instead, it is always grandparents who are hushing the kids around. A family who lives a few floors down from Zhexiong has four small children, parents, and two sets of grandparents all living under the same roof. I wonder how they got around the one-child policy.
This is the view of the main entrance from a good-sized square just outside. It is evident from the landscape and the upkeep that the square belongs to the same entity, even though the general public clearly took advantage of the space. There are people sitting around on the benches, kids rollerskating and biking, street vendors selling various snacks and kids toys. What troubles me is the clear economic and social disparity that exists from the view of the other side of the square. In 2008, Michael and I walked into those alleys and saw first hand how different life is there.
Inside the gate, the grounds are nicely landscaped and kept for the most part, clean, with almost constant sweeping from hired labor. There is a good-sized outdoor swimming pool in the center of courtyard that is dry, with a swirling slide leading to the shallow side that was probably intended as the kids' swimming area. Now the entire swimming pool serves as a running space for the kids.
There is one play area with a small play structure on a soft surface servicing the entire community. You can imagine how crowded it can get: sometimes the slides are stacked with kids waiting to go down. This reminds me of the two play structures both within 5-min walking distance from my house in Lansing, which barely ever get used. I wish I could somehow move them here for the kids who don't seem to be able to get enough of it.
As the Chinese new year nears, the community is readying itself. Every preparation starts with a deep cleaning, and this is how it is done here. Thank goodness the weather is nice enough for the grounds to dry here in just a few hours. The low temperature here is 65ish, which is higher than the high in Lansing. Looks like we will escape winter this year for the most part.