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THE Lowly Peon

Back in the Old Days 
22 January 2011, 8:41am

Really? Have I become one of those guys who says back in the old days, or back in my day, or in the good ol' days?

Rather than starting out describing the good ol' days, I'll describe what I just went through.

Daisy is feeling a bit under the weather, so I decided to cook her a bit of a feast tonight for dinner. They just opened a new Century Mart nearby, so I went there in search of some delicious foreign goods. It's only about a twelve minute walk, so I grabbed my reusable hippy grocery bags, bundled up, and set out for Fuxing Rd. (For those of you interested, this is across the street from my beloved pancake lady.)

I left my apartment complex and had a hard time even exiting the front gate. This is a natural result of everyone in the growing middle class owning a car, and none of them knowing how to operate one. (And also the fact that although there is more than adequate parking underground, they're all too cheap to pay the five or so dollars a month, and rather park on the sidewalks above ground.)

Nearing the corner, in front my old friend's carwash, I crossed the street worrying that someone wouldn't be able to stop and slide on the ice to my demise. Fortunately, the traffic was backed up such that no one was moving anyway, so I was fine.

For the first time ever in my neighborhood, which is far from downtown, I saw several people looking for parking spots. One car was even waiting for someone to pull out to grab his spot.

I got to the Century Mart and almost immediately regretted it. It's three floors, smells funny, and has more people that the average American city at any given time. I'd rather not describe what it's like shopping at a place like this, so I merely say that I will never go back, for many of the same reasons I never shop at Wal-Mart.

On the walk home, I saw four white people. (One couple was taking a picture of a condom vending machine that advertised "Life Jacket Vending Machine". I need to go back and grab a photo of that.)

_Rewind to the good old days._

When I first moved to Hangzhou, this apartment was in the boonies. The complex was probably at less than half capacity, which made it nice and quiet all the time (except for Chinese Spring Festival). It was far enough that no one passed it, but close enough that I could easily get downtown by foot, bike, or bus. There's a small grocery store about ten minutes away, which is the reason for my love of pistachios (used to hate them) and granola (the only western food available).

The roads were all new and empty, so much that I almost felt nervous walking home at night.

The bus stops weren't too full, so there was always a place to sit while you waited.


There's no point to this post, except that I'm absolutely amazed how much this area has changed. Maybe it's all of Hangzhou, though. After all, the price of a single serving pizza at my old favorite pizza place went from 58rmb — expensive in China, but reasonable, and worth it — to 68rmb two years later, when their menu merged with a sister restaurant, and then to a whopping 108rmb a few months ago. That's almost $20 for a single pizza, in a country where five years ago $20 could feed you like a king for a week. I miss those days.

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