Chinese Women, Asian Women, Online Dating & Things Chinese and Asian
Gareth is an Australian who has lived in JiangSu, SuZhou (Heaven on Earth) for a few years - he is a keen observer of the Chinese people, Chinese culture and the changes that are occurring in China at break-neck speed. He can often be found on his a nightly 'perch' in front of his bar in the famous Bar Street in Suzhou, talking to the locals in his bad Mandarin, teaching the 'flower-selling girls' English, eating street food and smiling at the local chengguan (neighbourhood police). Gareth also has several other businesses in China around Business and English training. His experiences have been varied and interesting and his years in China have taught him to be wary of promises but excited about prospects, not a bad situation to be in!
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Suzhou weathervane    

By Garreth Humphris
2563 Views | 3 Comments | 3/26/2011 1:22:31 AM

Spring has come to my little part of China with a mild wafting this week, but it wasn't the passing taxis pushing the chill blue fume wind into my face today that signified it, but rather, it was the more subtle changes in my street this month.

Some of you may know that my favorite pastime is to perch myself in front of my business and observe all I see with a mixture of mock disdain and giggling pleasure - sort of like watching people slip over on an icy slope from a distance and watching them struggle to stand up again... You want to go over to help, but you know if you do, you too will be sitting on your arse in the snow!!!

So I noticed on one particular night that all the 'ladies of the night' in the street, to a girl, decided to simultaneouesly jettison their winter attire. A veritable transformation from cocoon to butterfly.

Most importantly, it means a start to my voyeuristic summertime pursuits because every young lady walking past had removed leggings, long-line jacket and beanie, to migrate to flowing hair, flimsy tops and micro mini-skirts with thigh-high leather boots. And not without fair timing, winter is such a cruel season!!

But most telling was the sudden arrival of the mobile fruit-seller that has returned from the winter hibernation in his home town. It is a strange sort of ritual for me because he is such a funny character who seems to be around every day of the year, but really only has a presence in summer.

When I first met him about 7 years ago he was essentially begging his way to live - but within a few days he had started on a new enterprise - he had a carry-pole and two baskets on long rope harnesses and he carried these full of fruit selling it to everyone who would buy it.

This wasn't a particularly easy thing for him to do, because he has developed a fair degree of spasticity in his hands, due he tells me, to hard work as a boy. You can see this on him as well, he has a barrel chest, and very stooped shoulders and stumbles along with one foot twisted inward. Now this description is hardly flattering I know, and most people would probably steer clear of him, except for his wicked smile and quick wit.

He has since graduated to a rickety 3 wheeled tricycle with an unbelievable wonky front wheel so that if he goes faster than walking pace, it throws fruit in all directions. He tells me he has a great benefactor in the street, a foreigner who bought him this antique rusty frame and wooden device that he sleeps beside in his little alleyway home. He is sworn to secrecy about who it is, another great mystery of China.

He has this uncanny knack of knowing exactly when I will be going to the local convenience store, and manages to sneak in and somehow get a 7RMB bottle of rice wine on my bill without me noticing, then when I turn around, he winks and scampers out the door with a 'thanks for keeping me warm tonight' comment!!

Of course I am not complaining - it is a lot of give and take... every evening I get 2 handfuls of free fruit and I am sure he doesn't make much money from the bagfuls I buy on my way home at 3am in the morning. And when he is sitting on the spare seat next to me hitting cigarettes and bottles of Qingdao beer from the patrons, he certainly isn't out drumming up business, but I suppose that the 20 or so chicken-bars in the street don't need to be visited by him too often!

So technically he is the Suzhou weathervane - He always arrives the day before spring, in a new suit, that he wears continuously through to rags in winter, then goes home! Home is somewhere in Shandong, a place that is colder in winter than here. He always tells me it is warmer, because this is where the heart is!

One day I asked him why he came here to work so late hours for so little money and he said it was to pay for his son to go to university - you could see that bright light of pride showing out from his eyes as he spoke, nobody before in his family or his wife's family had even finished high school let alone gone onto higher education. He was hoping his son would be happy and find a good job and not have to sell fruit on the street. He tells me he can't even pronounce what his son is studying, but he isn't too worried because he knows he can make it better in life. Much better than his, he assures me.

I hope that when his son graduates, he'll still drop by occasionally, or maybe I'll have to venture further north soon!!

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#2011-03-26 01:25:12 by JohnAbbot @JohnAbbot

You are really on a roll Garreth. This was a great read and painted a terrific picture of the real China. Very nice - thank you.

#2011-03-26 21:16:16 by kahnsfury @kahnsfury

I agree with John. This is a great blog article. I hope to see more of them.

#2011-03-27 16:54:59 by doctorj @doctorj

garreth, i just spent a week in suzhou and you nailed it!

from there i spent a lovely day in hangzhou just as flowers and trees were beginning to bloom. wow, lovely blooms--human and other forms of nature--all coming out at the same time!

my only regret is that i did not meet you as you are an outstanding writer! well done!

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