Apr 20, 2013

Snaps: Peter in the wall

Abandoned riverside cafe

I don't think this business is open anymore

Last summer’s flood left behind some strange rubble, some of which still hasn’t been reclaimed.

Sep 8, 2012

Flood: Cleaning up

One day later, things get on the road back to “normal”

Cleaning up
Cleaning up
For some, cleaning up was not a priority. This shoe store got straight to the selling. And, many of their customers got straight to the buying.

By July 24, the water had subsided. (And the power came back the day after that.) We suspect it was so fast due to some jiggery pokey with the Three Gorges Dam. So the clean up began.

The whole neighborhood smelled of low tide and bleach. The first thing to do was to get the muck and garbage out of your store. There were huge piles of detritus along the street, and hardworking store owners were covered in mud. Small groups of soldiers went from here to there, wearing life vests and carrying brooms.

Along our Zhongpingyuan Road, the whole process lasted about a day or two; they were soon up and running with the merchandise that they had rescued from before the flood. Some businesses took the opportunity to upgrade or move out or move in.

As you approached the river, however, recovery took a little longer. Many of the KTVs and teahouses immediately adjacent to the river are still rebuilding. (Although some threw open their doors as soon as they were sufficiently dry, thus explaining a heavy mildew smell we found in one of these establishments over Christmas break.)

Cleaning upCleaning up
Furniture from some KTVs still sits in a pile across the street from where it belongs, waiting for repairs and upgrades to be finished.
Cleaning up

The flood waters stripped the river bank of all the (admittedly, somewhat rickety) structures that had been there, and left behind a lot of garbage that has yet to be picked up.

Cleaning upCleaning up
Before the flood, a giant carnival was set up at the water’s edge.
Afterwards, enterprising folk have set up outdoor tea rooms in the newly free space.
Cleaning upCleaning up
This frightening, lakeside swingy ride before the flood …
… and the after.
Cleaning up

We were glad to see a cleaning brigade at sticks on the day after the flood, but in the subsequent days, no one came back. We checked every day! By the time we were ready to leave town a couple of weeks later (summer vacation stories coming soon!), there was still no sign of life. Had the flood wiped out our 串串 for good?

Sep 7, 2012

Flood: What are you looking at?

It’s not a disaster, it’s an event!

Looking at the flood

I was definitely not the only one running around with a camera that day. Spectating may be the Chinese national sport. You’ll often run into crowds of onlookers huddled around anything from a car accident to a cellphone demonstration to a construction site. (Sometimes they’ll actually wander around a construction site, just to see what’s up.) So people were out en masse to soak up the spectacle.

Looking at the flood
Police had put up caution tape where water overflowed into our street, but many people just ignored it.
Looking at the flood
Don’t worry. The guys in the boat are official.
Looking at the flood
The recently completed bridge by our house provided an excellent view of the area that was underwater. This was as crowded as it’s been since the bridge opened.
Looking at the flood
This is possibly more tourists than the Luzhou Laojiao factory gets when it’s not underwater.
Looking at the flood
A quiet spot, away from the crowds
Looking at the flood
The man on the right-hand side of the photo is guarding his living room furniture.
Looking at the flood
Some citizens took it upon themselves to sweep the water back down into the river.
Looking at the flood

Next, the waters recede …

Sep 5, 2012

Flood: Getting down to business

A little water would never get in the way of sales

A man cleans off his stools in the flood water
A man cleans off his stools in the flood water
Adults invade school grounds
Hey! These people aren’t students!

One of our first clues that something was different — besides the power going out, which happens often enough — was the presence of a ton of adults on the school grounds. The school year had wound down and the campus had been mostly empty for the weeks prior to the flood, so it was weird to see anyone, let alone grown-ups.

Of course, out in the street, the answer was obvious: Our school was a dry throughway from Zhongpingyuan Road (aka Low Road) to Jiangyang Middle Road (or, to us, Middle Road).

The astonishing thing was that this was not an emergency route, necessarily. The uptick in traffic through the school was just errand-runners, picking up groceries, going to see friends, browsing for shoes, continuing life as usual. And, out in the street, everyone was just working around the flood like it was a minor inconvenience. People whose homes were flooded sat at the edge of the water, guarding piles of their furniture and things. As for the shops and businesses in the neighborhood, if it was dry, it was open. If it was underwater, the owners were getting ready to open as soon as the waters receded.

The streets become canals
The flood made canals of some of the lower-elevated city streets. Which here provided this family with a waterside table for dinner.
This mahjong table's got to go somewhere
Street traffic consisted of motorbikes, zipping around where cars couldn’t reach, and people moving mahjong tables and other valuable equipment to safety.
The generatorSorry, baby. C-Best is closed.
A few stores were powered by very noisy generators.
Bigger chain stores — like Cbest, our supermarket — opted to close their doors.
Whiskey and a radio show, the best cures for a power outage

After running around and taking photos all day, it dawned on me that we might need some emergency supplies. As the sun was setting, I went out for bottled water and candles. Shops were starting to close down due to darkness, but I was successful in my mission, grabbing the last large bottle of water from the little market down the street and two packages of candles from the near-by hardware store. (I had both written down the characters and made a little drawing of a candle — though the owner was stationed in the doorway next to a gigantic pile of candles, making my efforts unnecessary.) My Kindle had some juice left, and I had just downloaded a few episodes of “That Mitchell and Webb Sound.” So we poured a couple of glasses of whiskey, lit the candles, and settled in for a night around our makeshift radio.

For some, the flood was the event to be at. Stay tuned for more details …

Sep 4, 2012

Flood: The water rises

It’s raining, it’s pouring … it’s flooding

The muddy, churning water of the Yangtze
The churning waters of the Changjiang River
Zhongpingyuan Road, at the bottom of our school
The river rises

The rain was quite heavy this summer, but we thought nothing of it, as the rain had been pretty heavy all year with no surprises. Until …

Sometime during the night of June 22, our Changjiang River burst its banks and flooded the streets and buildings that surrounded it. No one was killed, my friend Kristy told me later, but it was the worst flood Luzhou had seen in 50 years.

The water reached Zhongpingyuan Road, which is the back boundary of our school campus. That’s almost half a kilometer from the river, and up a significant incline. Buildings on the river front were drowned to their second story. From the bridge, you could see rooftops that were now at water level, and trees that looked like bushes, because their trunks were entirely submerged.

The before (left) and the after (right)

Above is the Luzhou Laojiao factory, which is right around the corner from our school, and a major tourist attraction for the city.

Tomorrow, a look at our neighbors’ reactions …