Thursday last, I walked Old Hubei Village with Chen Ting, an architectural graduate student with an interest in the landscape of Shenzhen’s state-owned industries. A walk around the train station and then through the Dongmen pedestrian street brought us across the Dongmen pedestrian overpass to the complex neighborhood where Hubei Villages Old and New abut the Luohu Culture Park, crumbling 80s factories, and 90s high-rises and one of the oldest Shenzhen food-streets eased into dusk. Impressions below:
The Spring Transport (春运) continues. The railway has moved waiting areas outside the station, and people with placards announce departures and lead travelers into the appropriate terminal. The place names — Chengdu, Wuhan, and Nanning — remind me how large the country and diverse Shenzhen’s immigrant population.
I also visited the Luohu Commercial Center, where the English spoken by the various shopkeepers caught my attention. It seemed as if copied out of a stereotype of Hong Kong movie because it was so standardized, “Missy, copy watch. Missy, DVD.” In English, speakers shared the same accent, vocabulary, grammar, and inflections despite the fact that they spoke different Chinese dialects and had different levels of formal education. Some spoke Cantonese, others Mandarin, still others conversed in Hakka and I think I heard Chaozhou language, but the English had smoothed out into something recognizably “Luohu”.
So, I’m thinking about the way that situations — like immigrating to Shenzhen or working at the Luohu Commercial Center, for example — mold us into expected types, making it easy for our diversity to be discounted because rendered superfluous. I’m also wondering how we train ourselves to see beyond expected type, not only when interacting with others, but also when presenting ourselves because the differences actually make us interesting.