Jul 25, 2012

Replace your passport: Afterword

China never stops

Our favorite painting

One of the exciting things about living in China is literally watching it grow and change before our eyes. Every day, new buildings go up, new establishments open for business and our city expands.

But, constant change in itself becomes a pattern, so in Luzhou, at least, the rapid development has become almost invisible to us. “Have you seen the new pharmacy?” “That milk store looks new. I think it used to be a meat store.” “The shoe store got air conditioning.” … It’s all so normal that it just becomes background.

The old Triple Plus
Six months ago, we ate dinner here …
Chengdu changes
… but now it was nothing.

But visiting Chengdu, we had fresh eyes. And we could see development at work on a micro level in the Xiao Tong Alley area. Between January and June, one whole side of the street had been cleared out to make way for a huge-looking construction project. This meant that hundreds of people who lived in apartments there were now elsewhere. Morning Bar, where we played midnight guitar with a guy from Luzhou — gone. Triple Plus, with the cool murals — gone. And that was disappointing. But what’s going on there looks big, and we’re eager to see what grows up in that space.

And it wasn’t all a disappearing act. Door Bar — the funky bar-cum-performance/exhibition space — was still around. The MexItalian place was still there, with a new name. Among other new cute-looking spots, there was a western-style coffee shop that looked worth trying. And even the Loft got a new pool table area out in the courtyard. Xiao Tong Alley may have changed, but it still retained its vibrant and funky feel.

We didn’t have a lot of time for sightseeing on our first trip, but we vowed to spend more time on the Alley when we came back in two weeks.

Even in that short span of time, however, things changed. On our return, new coffee shop was already shuttered and on its way to becoming another establishment! And Door Bar was slammed closed forever! We’d have to find our drinks at some place brand new — which was fine; a bar called Middle had some pretty cool artwork.

My inexpert opinion of what’s going on is that Sichuanese capitalism is very much in a phase of “throw it against the wall and see what sticks.” There’s a high turn over (both in Luzhou and Chengdu) because people here are just figuring out the rules of capitalism for themselves. Along the way, they’re taking brilliant risks and sometimes making huge mistakes. But they’re trying it out to see what works. Which makes me think that the local entrepreneurs are incredibly brave!