The Ghetto of Xiamen (don’t think of an urban ghetto, I can’t imagine they exist in China) and what often gets called ‘The Village’ is a shantytown and definitely one of my favourite parts of Xiamen. It’s kind of bitter/sweet though.
The sense of community there feels solid. People obviously know each other, see each other every day. There are some things that come through even with the language barrier. It made me miss home and sitting around in various pubs where my friends work. Cause when you manage bars, all your friends seem to work in them too. That’s pretty much my social life at home and I love it.
The whole thing is charming as fuck. It’s obviously completely unvarnished, no frills. Blurred lines between what buildings are shops and what are houses, I wasn’t really sure where I could walk into or not, which is normal for this area apparently. You’d get a cigarette and liquor shop or maybe a convenience store that has a family round a table eating and watching TV off to one side. It’s a lot like where my Mum grew up in Malaysia maybe that’s why I like it so much.
Questionably sanitised meat vendors, veg vendors, restaurants… etc… food being sold off the floor. (What looks like) meat being hung out to dry in the heat, although it could have been anything. Chickens and ducks in cages. Queue any and all Friends references (calm down millennials). These chicks and ducks not destined to have quite such a happy life.
Just to go off on a tangent one of my earliest memories in Malaysia is the sound of my Ma Ma (grandma) in Sibu, beheading a chicken in her kitchen – my mum managing to pull me back just in time so that I didn’t see anything except some blood on a towel. You get indoctrinated to that stuff when you’re young in a lot of countries. That’s the only time I’ve seen it. I still don’t like it, more so now that I don’t eat meat. But it’s a normal part of people’s food culture, and a damn site better than any industrial farm.
Walking down the main street on day 1 and seeing so many stray dogs, I mean, countless – sat in piles of rubbish, not moving, no one batting an eyelid, bothering food vendors (unsuccessfully) – was a bit gut wrenching. It’s not something you see in the U.K., a stray dog is a big deal and that’s how I’ve always looked at it. Heartbreak hotel. But *ray of sunshine* the times that I’ve walked around later in the afternoon, you see them being fed by shop keepers, being allowed sit and chill in the shade of peoples restaurants. It may not be the most hygienic but who really cares, I loved it.
It’s a world apart from half of the island but walk 10 minutes down the street and you’ll get to an Adidas store, or a Starbucks (boo). I’ve not seen such an abrupt divide.
Weirdly it’s the place I get stared at the least, you’d think it was the other was around – don’t ask me why. Clearly people just get on with their own lives and don’t bother with bullshit. Basic, but in the best way possible.
I wanted to get a lot more pictures of The Village as a lot of it has been shut due to CNY, but I’ve been bed bound for the past 24hrs and it’s not looking much better. I’ll add them in if I manage to make it out again.