Friday, December 26, 2008

Review of the Year - Livy recommends....

My long-time (and much-travelled) pen-pal Livy rather liked this post, celebrating our relief at the disappearance of the arid puritanism that had descended upon our city during the Olympics.

She says:
"As a visitor to a strange place one's eye tends to skim over the inexplicable - to focus on the parts that fit our stereotype of the place, or that completely stand out like sore thumbs. The bits that we don't understand or recognise, we don't tend to see until we get to know a place. You see the detail that a new visitor would miss, and that's what I like about your blog."

Another sign of de-Olympification

first posted on 4th October

It's not just the street-food stalls that have returned, it's also..... the backstreet "hairdressers".

These are tiny, squalid salons - usually just off a main street, down one of the little side alleys - where no-one ever seems to be having a haircut, but the exclusively female staff are...... well, rather garishly dressed, and, by Chinese standards, rather voluptuous. Yes, they are in fact mini-brothels.

There used to be a lot of them on Jiugulou Dajie - The Street, my home in my first couple of years here; at that time a main road in name only, it was really no more than a wide hutong (though subsequently redeveloped and broadened into a majestic boulevarde) - where the presence of the private English college I taught at provided a significant source of business (lots of relatively affluent young kids who didn't know how to get laid any other way). Since the Olympic redevelopment of the area, they've all been forced into 'hiding' down the little alleyways round about. And earlier this year, they were all closed down. (I'm not sure if there was any policy targeting them specificially, although I would imagine that there was. However, the general crackdown on migrant workers living here without the requisite residence permit - hukou - will have led to most of their employees being kicked out of the city for the summer.)

Now, at last, they are starting to reappear. There's something oddly comforting about it - even the sleazier aspects of the city form part of its familiar charm.

I was very naive about these places when I first arrived here. The girls would become terribly excited whenever a foreigner walked past - tapping loudly on the window with a coin to get our attention and beckoning us agitatedly to come in. "My god!" I'd think to myself. "Do I really need a haircut that badly?"


Livia said...

Thanks Froog - and merry Saturnalia!

Froog said...

You're welcome, Livy. Thanks for joining in.

I envy you the Scottish Hogmanay. Have a good one!