March 4 08
The neighborhood I live in is on the far western edge of Shanghai, near the old airport called Hongqiao. My street is fairly developed; my apartment complex is paved with green, pink, yellow and white cement tiles. I am spoiled to have several grocery shopping options within a mile radius, even Starbucks, McDonalds, Papa Murphy's and KFC amongst many fine Chinese establishments. But just a few blocks away, under the outer ring road freeway, is a more traditional Shanghai. Some would call this a slum. And in a way it is. But it also represents life like Chinese have known for centuries, with most business conducted in the open on the street, one or two-storied housing, crowded, bustling, life. Tiny restaurants with 2 or 3 tables with stools for chairs. Coal being burned for fuel. Garbage tossed to the side of the street; not enough room here for cars. Only pedestrians and the occasional bike and moped. Bad smells, polluted canals. But earthy smells as well and fresh street cooking. People curious to see a foreigner on their lane. I take the bike/pedestrian tunnel under the freeway to get here. The streets here represent thousands of towns in China.