Thursday morning brings China’s earthquake virtually out of the international news.
In the States, Sen. Kennedy’s illness claims headlines. Internationl reports now turn to poor Myanmar, whose massive relief aid waits entry into a country with a military government very hesitant to allow it in. And in China, the 3rd day of mourning over, the hardest struck areas are beginning to pull themselves together with hopes of a new future.
In Chengdu, more schools resumed their courses today. Kids were out playing with their usual carefree abandon after being cooped up in classrooms all day. Recreational facilities (such as my swimming pool complex, city amusement parks, exercise gyms, and sports’ centers) once again opened their doors to the public.
I assumed that city residents would be moving back indoors but it seems the earthquake has sunk in deeper than I could ever have imagined. Camping communities are not shrinking by much, if at all. Only 1 tent has disappeared in my compound. The rest of our outdoor set-up still remains, the owners’ bedding carefully folded in preparation for another sleep under the stars.
This same thing can be said for the small parks that line Chengdu’s river canals.
On my return from the pool by taxi, I passed hundreds of outdoor shelters squeezed and crammed together along these canal front parks. Residents sat on stools or chairs in front of their quickly erected homes. Some sipped tea. Some knitted sweaters. Some read newspapers. Children who had returned from school were doing their homework on tables placed outside. They worked quickly. With another overnight sleep-out, darkness would soon be upon them and there would be little light to do their lessons.
One does wonder just when people will pack up and go home.
As my taxi today drove by these thousands of tents and their relaxed, seemingly happy occupants, I felt my anger rise.
“Too many tents and people living outside,” I vented to the driver. “It’s safe! No more earthquake. No more big aftershocks. Go home!
“Jiu-shi! (Yes!)”, my driver piped up, voicing his total agreement in Sichuan dialect.
He added that all was well here. He was living inside his apartment. No problems at all. But others, he explained, were still afraid. The earthquake was a very bad happening.
“They should go home, send their tents to the survivors,” I muttered. “Those people have lost everything. They have no clothes. They have no things. They have no homes.”
“Jiu-shi!” my eager listener whole-heartedly concurred.
Encouraged by his support, I continued my rant. I suggested the government make them all go home. If they don’t go home, the police will give them a fine. The 1st day’s fine is 10 yuan ($1.40). The 2nd day’s fine is another 10 yuan. The 3rd day’s fine is still yet another 10 yuan.
My driver admired my innovative idea.
“If they must pay money,” he said, “they will all go home very quickly.”
“And the money and tents we send to the survivors!” I grandly proclaimed as the driver pulled up to my destination.
Well, at least that’s one Chengdu resident I’ve won over. Only 10 million more to go.
From Chengdu, once again wishing you all a “Ping An!” Peace
Reminder for Those Wanting To Help
United Methodists: UMCOR Advance #982450, International Disaster Response, China Earthquake
Others: The Amity Foundation www.amityfoundation.org