Friday, October 24, 2008

Dorm Life

No, this isn't a post about what my students' lives outside of class are like. I frankly know nothing about where they live, how they spend their free time, and what kind of hopes and aspirations they have for their futures. (Hopefully, this will begin to change next week, as we are all going out for some Sichuan food together. Ah, the universal language of spicy, boiled fish!)

The dorms I'm referring to are a rather different phenomenon from student housing. Everywhere in China, you may have heard, there is construction going on. Much of this building is being done by so-called migrant workers who originally hail from China's interior provinces and have relocated to major coastal cities in search of jobs and higher standards of living.

So where do all of these migrants live while working on specific projects? One common accommodation is temporary, dorm-like structures that can be found wherever big building is going on. These structures, plopped down adjacent to work sites, make for some interesting scenes...

You can walk down Zhongguancun Lu, a major thoroughfare like, say, Connecticut Avenue. There, amidst all of the electronics superstores and bright displays, you can see underwear and bed linens hanging on a clothes line.

Or you can walk out of the School of Government at Peking University and bump into a group of men, tanned from laboring in the sun, hanging out, smoking and playing Chinese board or card games.

I will be curious to hear my students views' on the presence of such communities in the midst of the places where they, China's leaders of the future, live and learn...



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