Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Ding Dze Tiao

I first became acquainted with this oddly named street the year I came here. Young Tony, who, back then was young, young Tony invited me to dinner, instructing me to get off bus 907 at that stop. That was in the days when A. I didn’t know my way around town, B. could not read or understand any Chinese and C. when bus stops were ephemeral, consisting of a group of people standing by the side of the road, flagging down buses as they came by.

These days, all of those conditions have been corrected, bus stops are firmly planted and I know not to ride bus 907, which charges 1Yuan more to ride than all of the other buses. 

The second brush with ‘Ding’ was Martin’s last name. You’ll remember Martin, aka Monkey, whose family greeted me warmly and then proceeded to hold me prisoner out in the country. (See Country Chicken entry, posted August of this year). For a while I played with him as did one of Chandler’s buddies did on Friends. Chandler’s last name was Bing and his friend would always say it twice: “Chandler Bing. Bing!” I would intone “Martin Ding. DING!!” and thump him on the head.

With all this Ding-ing, you’d think I’d get curious about what that word means, wouldn’t you?

It took me a while but I finally did. The event that prompted me to do so was a walk through Sam’s neighborhood.

It seems we had time-traveled back to the 70’s, at the apex of the Cultural Revolution. By this time, most everyone in China had settled in to the fact that they would be productive within their communes. Not unlike the ‘factory towns’ of America during the early 1900’s, workers were housed in company quarters, shopped at local (company owned or subsidized) stores and worked long stretches in factories. However, unlike the form of indentured servitude espoused by Ford, Carnegie and the like, Chinese factory towns made no promises of eventual ‘freedom’. Workers were assigned to their units and factories were ‘owned’ by the government. Each complex was completely self-sufficient. There were schools, parks, shopping venues – not many, mind you. Everything anyone needed to live could be found within the factory complex.

Today, an echo of those long-gone factory villages are found here and there. Neither publicized nor glorified, these neighborhoods are still inhabited. It would be impossible for me to convey the exact sights, sounds of these communes. Again I do myself a disservice by posting photos. I can relate the ambience of such a ‘park’ in one word: timeless. See for yourself:  

There are pictures of the market serving the area, and of the park, central to the commune.
The building portico is a part of the old factory building, now abandoned. A grim looking entrance to an apartment building. Note the blue and white sign that denotes what type of work cooperative this particular unit was. The last picture shows the added on kitchen area (built out area in bright red brick), primitive electrical connections and recent add-ons: air conditioning and satellite dish. Note the faded unit number, 38 in the blue bordered white circle.  

The inside of such a dwelling will come in a later entry.


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