Here’s a picture book for your eyes and minds highlighting some East/West capitalism, illegal entrepreneurs, and the business district of bustling Beijing.
Remember the days when little Johnny, Tommy, and Sue could sell lemonade on the corner for a nickel? I bet this Chinese woman and her booking-selling son could fondly remember those days, too:
This mother and son are two of uncountable amounts of folks in China that practice guerilla sales along the walkways and streets of urban China. The American in me sort of digs their free-spirits, out to make their buck, er I mean, yuan. They are dissuaded from these actions, though.
A couple minutes prior to this picture, I was looking at socks from the nearby sock-selling lady. Suddenly, she somehow bundled up her blanket of goods in professional form–in like one second–and was primed to bolt. No worries; false alarm. Pheww! These prey (salespeople) always have to be on the look-out for the predators: police, hungry to confiscate their humble, unlicensed inventories. (I understand the cops have plain-clothes officers mingling around whistling dixie for a sneak infiltration into these commercial zones, too.)
But for now, the sock lady put all her display back down–which was good–because I was eyeing a couple pairs for my own tootsies. I wanted to know how they compared to prices in Walmart, which was within sight:
I entered the Walmart, eager for a more American-style shopping experience. But in China, Walmart isn’t the low-price leader I know back home. Those street salespeople are. Socks in the store were double what the sock lady had them for. Boy, I hoped she was there when I left.
But Walmart did have something the street-sellers didn’t:
I left and went back to the outdoor entrepreneurs. I got my socks. And the book lady was still chillin’ with her son. My buddy from a couple posts back, Zhong Hua, happened to be with me this day so we asked the lady what was up. Why live this stressful life? There was a Walmart right there–couldn’t she get work?
Turns out her boy is off school in the summer. She needs to watch him; plus, they don’t live here, anyway. They’re from another province and come for summer money. In the fall they go back; the boy goes to school; and the mom goes to her other job.
Okay, so I looked again at her books and found a good one to buy. My best of luck to them:
And let me say this: though circumstances are unfortunate, an attribute I see in almost everyone here is the understanding that you don’t get something for nothing. Everybody pulls their own weight. And when a billion people do this… Well, we hear almost everyday about China’s rise.
Later on, I jetted to see the other side of the business world–the shnazzy–to the business district. Though not as impressive as the skylines of Shanghai or Hong Kong, it’s no slouch. After all, Beijing is ground zero for the gargantuan government that is the CCP.
I got down there and felt right at home as if it was any nice, large city in America:
Top brands, clean streets, nice-dressed folks. I felt a bit out-classed here. And something about an area like this heightens everyone’s “business” look, with the masks of “I’m busy; I’m on my way to someplace important” on their faces. The productivity and demands of the urban world can really program people into a tunnel-visioned, task-oriented, manner. This trend seems to reflect and build from one person to another, raising the whole to a level of noticeable non-personableness. I think this is why people talk about the cold nature of New York or wherever. This oblivious-to-others nature always has me feel a bit shunned. Made me kinda long for the humble alleys of pork buns and shirtless, smoking dudes near my hostel.
But whatever, I hung in there and enjoyed it–though at a quickened, city pace. And my hats off to those who weren’t swayed into this tense/reserved/pressured nature, who stay relaxed and friendly.
So that’s Beijing, Readers.
Oh ya, that and there’s a lot of people:
But I gotta move on, because well, I did move on. My following travels had me going south, to visit a special woman who links the present to a time long ago, to an age few can recall.
On the train to Ruyang. No, you’ve never heard of it, but I’ll get you good and familiar.
And thank you, Beijing. The combination of your size, energy, growth, and spirit are un-duplicatable. You continue to lead a billion people to wealthier futures. You teach the whole of humanity–about humanity–through your rich and living history.
to new plateaus,