Wandering through the Alleys

I saw people walking on the street and though it is a small city, I feel being small is also like being on the way to our very origin.

by Tome Loulin

This small city—Qianjiang, yet, not a particularly special one, while on the south of the Han river, is in no way like a river town. Though having been living there sporadically for almost ten years, occasionally, I could still somehow feel waves of unfamiliar feelings engulfing the shores on the inside of my heart.

Yet, it’s another summer reaching its culminated phrase in the Northern Hemisphere. It’s the season of passion and ardency, yet, still fleeting in nature. It’s summer and people are tired of not being able to socialize or to live collectively. Young people who used to be studying or working outside of the city now are coming back to the city to work for jobs relating to gig economy. It is seemed suddenly young people who had previously absent from the city have come back for good—there are still people living here planning to work or study in Wuhan or other big cities but this time most people are not going, for there are times they could wait. So they waited and wait.

Mostly abandoned by educated youngsters, the city had looked like a city of the aged and the new born. It’s still full of people walking aimlessly and not a single one seemed much affected by international politics. Yet, parks in the city are filled by retired people, mostly women, dancing and exercising—surely those who dance regularly must have known what is the best way of living. Old ladies cluster together, sitting still to talk about their old love stories or rumors, yet, still some are eager to master the art of mahjong playing, sitting beside mahjong tables in mostly shabby spaces with dim lighting. They don’t mind such conditions as long as they can have something to talk about, to play with and to laugh at.

The sidewalks of the road beside my apartment have been undergoing a gentrification motivated, I guess, by the intention to help people who want works work. Most of those working at this road renovation site are middle aged, mostly men with sunburnt skin. They just work and rarely were seen to talk. Their browned skins are the products of their unawareness of sun protection but how can they care about their skins when they cannot stop caring about how will their next meal come securely.

In a street in Qianjiang, by Tome Loulin

Days before at an afternoon when I was on the way home, a man middle aged with curled hair at middle-length carrying a plow on one of his shoulders passing me by impressed me when I saw his bitter yet still warm smile on his face. At that moment, though he was no longer seemed young but I still feel his overlooked passion for life. It’s about hope. His hope expressed by his shy smile was at that time as vivid as the sunlight that afternoon.

It was about six past forty when I saw a pair of seniors holding hands stroll through the street through which I go to my grandma’s house. Their movements had been shaky and zigzag yet still as steady as one can be at that age. It was a beautiful yet burningly hot evening. I saw people walking on the street and though it is a small city, I feel being small is also like being on the way to our very origin.

Somewhere

Standing before a souvenir store in the palace museum, though the postcards depicting palaces Chinese imperial members lived in a stately air were still sold hanging on the stock stall, I was no longer interested in buying them, instead, I had watched those cards for a while and then gone.

by Tome Loulin

“Tome Loulin, you seem like coming back from beach after vacation.” A female colleague had teased me saying, referring my wearing: a training tank top and a very short short. Though a bit embarrassed but trying not to be seemed so, I smiled to her but said nothing. That was a summer and the sunlight very strong. Because of our good quarterly performances in sales, we got a group-vacation as a reward. Current-drifting was proposed as the recreational program and permitted.

While in the bus on the way to the valley where the drifting program is located, a male guide bragged that he was honored as the king of karaoke because of his good voice but everyone in the bus said nothing in response. He was not at all feeling embarrassed, instead, he was a bit excited and almost shouted to us, saying: “ you don’t believe me? How about letting me sing some songs I am good at to you?” “No, thanks, we’d love to sleep.” Some tourist in the bus had replied to him suddenly. But he had sung the songs he liked anyway.
After hearing his singing, a few had thanked him for his performance out of politeness then he had sat down and become quiet.

While a young woman was ready to speak and to raise her body, another older one had interrupted her saying: “ this girl is newly recruited by our company to work as a guide and she will read aloud some safety guides to you. Should there be any inconvenience occurred later, I would beg for your pardon.” Then in the bus was a silence and the young woman started reading: “If there were anyone in our tour group having encountered any emergency, please let us know.” The way the word emergency was read by her in Mandarin was like emergen-seex in English. It may be due to a sudden change of lines on her draft. Three women seating in front of me had burst into laughters. But unaffected, the young girl resumed reading. The bus was ascending on the highway. Outside of the window were mountains green-covered in a row.

After arriving at the valley, I said to my colleagues that due to my own concerns, I hope myself to remain on the land and to simply watch them drifting in the currents. But they had already bought my ticket days ago so they insisted me to join them together, otherwise, it would be a waste of money.

Before hearing that we would go to Yichang, the city where three gorges dam was located, to drift in the river currents, I had searched on the internet for information about that game. Only until I was utterly shocked by the information I got, which were overwhelmingly negative, depicting it as a risky game for inexperienced people to play and so on, had I stopped browsing.

Though that day is a brilliant and hot summer day but the water in the valley where we prepared to drift was as chilling as ice. With wave after wave hitting our body while we were on our course forward, I was much more concerned about the rocks in that small river so that every time when there was a descending, we bend our heads as low as to our thighs in order to protect our heads.

The whole course lasted about hours. And after I landed, finishing the journey, I felt extremely grateful that this had ended but some colleagues seemed unsatisfied and there was a female one said to us that she planned to go back drifting with her friends the next day.

The year I graduated from university was a year of endless traveling. Classmates had invited me to go to an amusement park in Wuhan which I rarely knew to play for the purpose of honoring our graduation.

While waiting in a line snaked about almost hundreds meters long to ride the roller coaster of which I was scared. But anyway, the ticket had been already bought so I had better not waste the money I spent, a classmate persuaded me saying.

Seeing people in front of me both excited and scared, I felt it was normal to be that way because I felt the same. But they my classmate said that it was better to have tried than never. If not now, when?

Media in China had previously criticized a phenomenon that most of the tourists in China had embossed their names on the walls of famous attractions, turning those in cultural ruins. That was almost a decade ago when selfies were not much prevalent and people’s urge to create proofs to show they had been to such places was strong. Now with the advancement of photography, those who want to have some thing to prove their existence no longer need to use such ways to show their travel histories. Souvenirs were no longer sophisticated things to them.

I had watched Palace Museum photographs on the postcards, alway under bright sunny days and seemed solemn. The yellow and dark red tone appeared on the postcards made a nostalgic air in my childhood memories.

Standing before a souvenir store in the palace museum, though the postcards depicting palaces Chinese imperial members lived in a stately air were still sold hanging on the stock stall, I was no longer interested in buying them, instead, I had watched those cards for a while and then gone.

Sending postcards to a close friend or a family member while traveling was once a regardful ritual, a means to show our considerate thoughts and regards to our friends. Now, with the advancement of the Internet, people are having less and less concrete memories relating to their family members and friends.

While during the pandemic, there was a news reporting that the sales of the card of condolence had surged, mainly in use to send people’s deep sympathies to the people they befriended. Receiving a physical thing is no same to a digital one.

Classmates in university had organized a camping. Before that, I had never climbed a mountain and though that experience is as ordinary and simple as it could be, with the passion and curiosity of youth, I had remembered that journey a faith-like one.

Where are we going? I had asked my grandmother while holding her hands walking in a dark night when I was little.

“Somewhere we call home.”

In A Crisis Haunting the World, Hubeians Face Another – A Report at Micro

“What Henanese are experiencing in China is basically what Jews in Western society had or have experienced.”a fact that Henanese people have experienced profound xenophobic remarks towards them indicates an acute situation facing the people of Henan, a province in central China.

Romy, in his twenties, was going to Beijing to attend a week-long internal training convened by an English teachers association. Conveners came from all over the nation. But regarding to high hotel costs that Romy could hardly afford—though part of those expenses could be reimbursed by the company he worked; for the purpose of minimizing his expenditure while staying in Beijing, he had proposed a message to find a roommate for a two beds business room in a meeting attenders’ chatting group. Jon, a trainee attending the meeting and from Anhui province, responded to Romy.

“Are you hungry?” Jon said to him as they met in the first time before the hotel porch. That was winter but Romy felt Beijing is hardly colder than Hubei, a province in central China and known for its affluent hydroelectric resources. Winter in Hubei is harder to endure owing to its high-humid weather condition making people feel frozen.” Romy said, citing that Hubei doesn’t have a centralized heating system for all in provincial-scale, which northern provinces have.

They went to a dumpling restaurant. “Have some dumplings.”said Jon, insisting Romy to eat some. “I’ve eaten before you arrive so I just accompany you lest you be alone.” He replied.

Their days together went by peacefully enough initially that Romy says that he could not expect more until one thing happened later ruined those all. When they got off of the conference; both of them felt tired and went straight back to the room. Jon was talking in the mobile phone with his mother. “It may be impolite to hear other people talking in phone; but given that you are in such an encapsulated room with such a vocal conversation near you, hardly can you not notice about what they were talking about.” Romy recounts. He then heard Jon’s mother asked “where does your roommate come from?”. Hearing her son—Jon—uttered “from Hubei” to her, she replied with a high pitch saying that Hubeians are very jīng—a Chinese adjective mainly used for derogatory purpose to belittle someone’s traits as discreditable, synonymous with lurking. To say someone is very jīng in China is equivalent to saying the N-word before a person of African-descent, or presenting the swastika symbol before a person of Jew-descent. “I wanted to protest but found that there was no chance of doing so because you are basically a non-participant in their family-talking.” Jon evoked that occurrence, adding that “you cannot go straight saying that how dare you say that to rebuke him for his mother’s use of the word jīng to describe a group of people she dislikes.”

Scapegoating a group of people for the very crisis is irresponsible but that is what most people will do.

Romy

Years after that, Romy says that he still feels hurt by that incident. “I find that now hardly can I myself not doubt one’s intention of making remarks about another.” He recounted saying.

Now, with the onset pandemic haunting the world, which is first broke out in the city of Wuhan, Hubei, the stereotypes and bigotry assaults relating to the link between the virus and the province towards Hubeians only seemed to increase. Hotels are limiting and redefining in what a manner could Hubeians be admitted; some hotels outside of Hubei refused to admit Hubeians altogether. A bus carrying Hubeian workers back to work was refused to enter the border of Shanghai. A transportation official said to them “our leader gave us remarks that no cars with Hubei plates could be allowed entering Shanghai.” Thus the true massage uttered from those officials is actually that you the Hubeians are potential virus-carrier. Some migrant-workers form Hubei had no choice but slept on the bus altogether according to a report published on People’s Daily.

“Hubei is not ruined by the virus but by the bigotry bias linking Hubei with the virus, which is baseless as we have undergone a profoundly stringent lockdown for almost two months.” Romy said. “The ruin of Hubei will also be the ruin of the entire nation. Scapegoating a group of people for the very crisis is irresponsible but that is what most people will do. Today’s Hubei, Somewhere else tomorrow.”He said.

“Luckily I am not working outside and not planing to work outside either.”Romy said, adding that the word uttered from his roommate’s mother still makes him feel a bit seething. Reciting that, he said “Though I still feel about that, I know I need to realize that is what made them feel good about; you know, you can not have unrealistically high expectations towards others. That’s what it is all about.”

He smiled reminiscently. “I still feel graceful towards Jon despite of his mother’s remarks; he insisted me to eat some dumplings.”

“I think life is just such that regardless of the challenges you face, we got to learn to let things go and to reconcile with others and finally ourselves.” Romy added, smiled.


  • Jīng, or jīngmíng, (精): a derogatory adjective whose use is seen by most people as stereotypical and xenophobic; and whose rough equivalent in English may be the word lurking or trickery.
  • A report regarding discrimination facing Hubeians first appeared on Guangming Daily, People’s Daily then reposted it on its website as the title of ‘Don’t Let Hubeians Get Stuck on the Way Back to Work, Again.”—《别再让湖北人困在复工囧途》光明日报,March, 24th, 2020