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May 29, 2007 - Guyuan, China

The Times They Are A-Changin'... And Fast

Tell-tale signs you should skip reading a post?

It starts off with a cliché of this magnitude. A cliché that I am probably too young to fully appreciate. But, as usual, I am throwing caution to the wind.

This case might just be appropriate enough.

The coming summer seems to be the pretext for a wave of construction. Construction being nearly the end product of course. Preceding this construction however is a bone-jarring, ear-rattling, sinus-blocking, run-over-by-a-tractor-whilst-on-sidewalk kind of demolition. The demolition itself ranges from swarms of crowbar and sledge-wielding workmen crawling over bent rebar and broken concrete to massive yellow bulldozers swiping down mud-tenements. Most interesting are the teams of workers - for sure to give any labor representative in he states a coronary - balancing on rusty steel columns, swinging from crumbling joists and generally doing as much destructive work as possible.

All without a hardhat or safety harness or pair of glasses to be seen.

Whole blocks are coming down. Blocks of short one-story huts, one upon the next with foot-thick mud walls and thatched roofs. Blocks of grimy apartments with horribly tarnished sculptures out front and the plaster peeling off the sides in wide swatches. Blocks of businesses holding my favorite mutton shop, countless Chinese bodegas, butchers, fish-mongers and wedding photo shops.

And most puzzling of all, block upon block of apartments that seem to have been barely finished. Windows still wrapped in protective paper and a distinct lack of laundry hanging outside. New apartments being torn down to make room for more, well, more new apartments.

The building craze includes new roads all over town to cookie-cutter apartments rising out of the yellow sand like so many gaudily-painted Impressionist paintings. The tops of the buildings sporting massive geometric shapes cantilevered out into space, somehow projecting an image of hospitality, technology and wealth. Giant stainless globes perch atop roof peaks and fresh metal sculpture sitting, still wrapped near the gates.

It leaves me to wonder though, with so many people here in poverty, who will fill the new building?

Or am I missing the point? Are these new lots going to be razed again next summer?

As comes the melting of the snow, so too does the growl of the bulldozer.

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