Kindergarten Blues in Chengdu

I am finally getting around to writing this page after being back in Chengdu for more than four months.  I have ridden my bicycle around town from one side of the city to the other and around it on one or another of the four ring roads that encircle it.  A round trip on the first ring road takes a couple of hours, the second ring road about three hours, and the third ring road would probably take about five hours if I ever completed it.  The fourth ring road, or autoroute around the city, would probably take a whole day.  I pedal slowly and stop frequently for liquid refreshment, usually a cold beer.  Mostly, I stick to the roads and paths along the rivers that cut through the city.  The river may be polluted and smelly, but these byways of water have lots of shade provided by the many trees planted along them.  A typical stretch is like this one on the way to the city’s pagoda park.   Of course, since the 9-11 event in the U.S.A., ‘towers’ have always been in the back of my mind.  There is a lot of construction going on in Chengdu — not the ‘de-construction’ that happened in New York City.  Some countries like to build things up and some like to let things fall down.  No matter how one tries to forget about that day in September, 2001, the memory keeps coming back to haunt one.  I am reminded of this by the sight of the (literally) hundreds of towers going up here in Chengdu.  Many are surmounted by pyramids, clocks, obelisks, and all kinds of shapes abound.  There are twin towers, although they’re round, there are towers with cupolas on top of them, and there are even pyramids all over the city.  If one wanted to have an occult wet dream, a person need only start looking at buildings and wondering about them.  Of course, it is all too easy to project one’s imagination onto an environment that may have been constructed with an entirely different vision in mind.  I am not superstitious but I was finally prompted to write this page based upon a recent news story I read online about an apartment block being built in Shanghai that recently collapsed.  The story tells about a thirteen story high building that fell down due to shoddy construction.  We ALL know that the number 13 is unlucky, don’t we!  Take a look at the photo.   The building now lying on its side is all in one piece.  Why didn’t the twin towers in New York City end up the same way, I wonder.  Many of the buildings I see going up in Chengdu look similar to this one lying on its side.  In fact, the kindergarten I am working at is situated amidst tall apartment blocks on all sides and others are being constructed right behind our perimeter wall.  The same news article I’ve linked to above also mentions the collapse of a construction crane onto a kindergarten in China that killed 5 students.  Is it merely synchronicity or coincidence that a similar construction crane looms over the back corner of our playground at the school?  As it swings around to deliver its payload of steel to the construction site, the tip of its boom travels over our playground — right over the jungle gym we just put up.  I am not superstitious but just pay attention to my environment.  Sometimes, the environment seems to speak to people in its own language.  Look at this picture I took of the crane overhead.  What do you think?  I sometimes sit with my kindergarten students having class in its shadow.  As it looms up in the sky and I see it wobbling as it turns around on its pedestal, I do wonder about things that go up and look so unstable.  It has given me an entirely new perspective on towers.  My students often sit in class and play with their plastic blocks, making similar towers in miniature.  We have a bird’s eye view of the construction site from our kindergarten and I guess we are getting a first-hand lesson in Chinese construction.  During the earthquake near Chengdu that happened last year, dozens of schools collapsed during the event.  More than 10,000 Chinese students died on that day.  Again, I am not superstitious but I do wonder about synchronicity.  Back in 2005, I was also living here in Chengdu, and again, working as a kindergarten teacher.  The family of one of my students took me to a hot springs resort up in the mountains.  They had a ‘time-share’ apartment there where we stayed and I remember enjoying sitting in the hot tub there.  I also visited the same resort earlier with bikers from Chengdu.  At the time, I had constructed a few mountain bikes at a ‘do-it-yourself’ mountain bike shop.  Bikers often got together on the weekends for long cycling trips out into the countryside.  One weekend had us cycle the 105 kilometers to this same hot springs resort where we spent the night.  By what set of circumstances I will never understand, this same resort town ended up being located only a few kilometers from the earthquake’s epicenter.  You can imagine how I felt about that kind of synchronicity.  I have vowed to cycle there again although the town still lies in ruins.  The Chinese have decided not to rebuild it and victims still lie buried under the collapsed buildings there.  It is now a tourist attraction of sorts with local Chinese making an annual pilgrimage there to honor the dead.  I don’t know what to think about that but it is probably not so different from the many Americans who visit the site of the twin towers in New York City.  We all honor the dead in our own ways and purge our memories in similar fashions.  At any rate, I continue to cycle around Sichuan Province as I started doing five years ago.  Now, I send most of my time on a slower bike following the many paths around the city.  I have photographed a lot of buildings in the city.  Again, it seems that we have been infected by ideas, or memes, planted in our subconscious minds by the mass media, governments, and others who wish to influence our thinking.  There ARE pyramids nowadays all over the world.  Many of them are here in China, just to the northeast of Sichuan Province, in X’ian.  One is the famous White Pyramid — I hope to visit it this fall and include a story of my trip on this page.  In the meantime, I will have to settle for my dream of going there by focusing on a little ‘white’ pyramid here in Chengdu.  Not to get ‘occult-ish’ on you, or superstitious.  I cycled right up to this pyramid and even walked right inside of it.  It is located in a local tennis club.  The only thing inside this pyramid is a couple of tennis courts — cool, they are.  I don’t know if the tennis player can meditate during his match but at least his tennis ball gets ‘high’ as it is plonked back and forth across the net.  I also cycle out of town on other days, outside the fourth ring, to the countryside surrounding Chengdu where one can still get glimpses of the village life that used to be here before the city started to sprawl outwards.  Now, it seems like a giant octopus, or amoeba, that is slowly consuming all the land around it.  I wonder where all the food comes from to feed the more than 9 million people living within that fourth ring road.  There are plenty of supermarkets around town and they are very packed whenever I go shopping in one.  I only hope the railroad that also encircles Chengdu continues to bring food into town.  I could go on and on with questions about city life like this but I will take them up one page at a time.  This may be enough for this month.  Please check out my flickr page for a lot of the photos I’ve taken of the ‘towers of Chengdu’.  Let me know what you think.


Dhane … June 30, 2009


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