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Friday, 4 March 2011

A Memory Of China



For some reason, this is one of the images from China which has stuck most vividly in my mind. Proof (if any were needed) that I am, more than anything, interested in people and cultures.

It rained a lot during our 2008 visit to Beijing, and when it rained, the road-sweepers were everywhere. You'd see a different pair every hundred yards or so, just sweeping water from the road into the drains with these huge brushes made of twigs.

The sight really emphasised what's so unique about China: with so many people, labour will always be cheap. And with such cheap labour, why would anyone bother to mechanise these little tasks? If you can do the job with a couple of men (or women) and besom brooms, why would you invest in a machine? Their greatest concession to the modern world was to move around by bicycle - well, that and the brightly-coloured waterproof jackets. It was, after all, raining.



17 comments:

Expats Again said...

When we moved to Shanghai and drove to our apartment building, there were about 20 Chinese people squatting on the grass with garden shears. They were cutting the grass. Not a single mower in sight during the three years we lived there.

LindyLouMac said...

Yes for me as well Rachel and also the men in uniforms especially to help you cross the roads even if there were traffic lights, amazing!

Carolyn V said...

I have never had the privilege of going to China, but I am so amazed by their hard work!

Ginny said...

What a great capture you made!! Funny, we don't sweep any water here, it is just left on the streets to go down the drains on it's own. So it almost seems that this would be unnecessary.

Lilian Nattel said...

China's central gov't has always been able to mobilize masses of people for huge works from the Great Wall to the big dam.

Stuff could always be worse said...

Thanks for sharing China with us! It is a fascinating place
kim

Fly Girl said...

I think that's a charming cultural trait. Human interaction is always better than machines.

Elizabeth Braun said...

Seems like a good idea!=)

Tabor said...

I am noticing how modern China is in these photos in spite of the hand labor.

Rachel said...

I wish the people maintaining our local public gardens used low-tech instead of noisy power tools!

purplume said...

I live in a desert, yet today it is raining as I read your post. I love simplifying and what better idea than to use the rain to clean the streets.
Those are humongous brooms!
You inspire me to think of ways I can use what mother nature is providing.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

A very interesting picture.

Jeanne said...

I was one of those guys this morning, down in our basement, but then I decided to cheat and use the carpet cleaner to suck up the water.

Because labor is at a premium in this house.

smilla4blogs said...

Ironic how these low impact solutions disappear with a thriving economy and better education. I suspect the street cleaners would love to be operating a huge machine...or better yet, gazing out at smoggy Beijing from a corner office...if they could.

Deirdre said...

It's amazing how many places you have visited and how much you take from each. :)

travellersyarn said...

I love this photo. I remember noticing in Banda Aceh, men who were working as parking meters!

Mary said...

I suspect these tasks have not been mechanized because they provided jobs for the urban poor. Bejing is a study in contrasts. Have a great evenig. Blessings...Mary

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