Xiangyin definitely differs from the modern Shenzhen in many ways. Though it is a bustling, growing town, it is still in a fledgling developmental state. Most people do not own cars so buses, motorcycles, bikes, pedestrians, and wagons full of fresh produce crowd the streets.
Unlike Shenzhen, there are no Walmarts, Sam’s Clubs, McDonalds, or Starbucks. There are about two large supermarkets but they are located far from my grandparents’ apartment so we have to ride the bus. Tiny little shops and street vendors dot the narrow streets, each selling goods such as clothes and shoes or providing services such as hair-styling.
Most people buy their daily groceries from large outdoor markets. The one market we visit each morning is much more intense than the one I saw in Shenzhen. Besides the standard fresh-picked vegetables, there are also live frogs, flopping fish, and freshly-butchered beef.
Life is much simpler here. Each day we wake early, around six or seven, and after a breakfast of noodles, steamed buns, or porridge, my grandfather and I hit the markets to buy the fresh produce for lunch and dinner. People here really emphasize freshness. They buy ingredients just a few hours before the meal. After a lunch of fish, vegetables, and white rice, my grandparents take a nap or do chores. Sometimes if I’m tired enough I’ll sleep for an hour or two.
In the afternoon I usually struggle through reading the Chinese version of Harry Potter or learn some calligraphy from my grandfather. Dinner is eaten early, around five or six. We finish up leftovers from lunch and may cook up some more fresh produce.
Around six, my grandparents watch the nightly news. I usually stick around, trying to understand as much of the news as possible. Sometimes we will take a short walk around the neighborhood. Then I call home or write up something for the blog. At nine, it’s lights out for the grandparents. I usually stay up for a few hours more, surfing the web and eating interesting Chinese snacks.
Life here can be agonizingly slow, but it is also a good break from the fast-paced, cutthroat outside world.