Xiamen, situated at Southern China, only an hour flight away from Hong Kong and a boatride away from Taiwan, is not the most exciting city in the world. But it’s the closest city to something very odd – UNESCO heritage sites of Tulou, or large communal buildings made of earth to house an entire community of 800. They’re so big that they are visible from the satellites, and because of their circular shape, the American army believed they were secret atomic plants of the Chinese government, only to find they are ancient houses.
The great great great (…and so on) grandchildren of the original housebuilder are still living in it, trying to make a living by selling souvenirs to tourists. Inside, I met a local, a painter who makes great oil paintings. Unlike the others, he didn’t care for the traffic in his little shop, he just painted with his back to the people, and with so much concentration. I liked that. We bought one of his biggest pictures, maybe that will encourage him to paint more.
The happy lady in the photo lives in an invisible village near the touristic Tulou. I was on my way to lunch when I saw her on the road holding a duck by its neck! I was so happy because I’ve never seen anything like that in my life, I quickly grabbed my camera and took a shot. She was laughing because she didn’t quite understand why a strange girl with an oversized camera was taking a picture of her with her lunch.
It is so different from Beijing. There were trucks with pigs being transported (our food chain right there?), bikes with a mountain of vegetables to be sold in markets. People drove motorcycles instead of cars. Children played with stones instead of toys. Villagers catch and cook their own duck instead of getting it in the restaurant. It’s one thing to know about wealth disparity, it’s another to witness it with your own eyes. Another city, another food for thought.