My excitement of returning to China was apparent in the taxi ride I took across town to pick up Little Flower two days ago. I was full of stories from home, my anticipation of soon picking up my pet, the upcoming Olympic opening ceremonies that evening and a wide range of other topics.
Since the ride was about 20 minutes, I figured I might as well get back into the swing of things by getting in as much Chinese practice as possible. The driver was certainly entertained by the chatty foreigner and added his comments as well.
Eventually, I turned to the recent strong earthquake aftershocks that have once again been hitting the area. While I’ve been gone, we’ve had magnitudes of 6.1, 5.8 and a few others which have caused landslides, collapsed homes and even a few deaths.
“Do you feel safe?” I asked the driver.
He laughed at the question.
Everyone in Chengdu is now used to aftershocks. People don’t go running outside at every shake like they used to or camp outdoors in fear of something terrible happening. But where the children are concerned, it’s a different story. The recent upswing in earthquake activity is fine for the adults, but my driver wasn’t taking chances with his only child.
“I sent my 4-year-old son to stay in Xinjiang province, with my parents,” he replied. “That place is much safer. No earthquakes. And very beautiful. The fruit there is really good, especially the watermelon and the grapes.”
“Jiu-shi (yes),” I answered agreeably in Sichuan dialect, yet in my heart, I debated his decision.
Xinjiang Privince, to the far west of China, is currently undergoing a great deal of unrest among the Uighers, a Muslim minority who have never been happy with the Chinese. Much like Tibet, that region is not as stable as the government would like. In the past 4 months, in major Xinjiang cities, reports of two bus bombs, a hijacking of Australian tourists and last week’s deadly Kashgar border patrol clash between Muslims and police have been reported. Chinese troops by the thousands are in the province, trying to stop any further disturbances during the Olympic Games.
Then we have today’s Chinese news announcing of several explosions in the southern Xinjiang city of Kuqa. Many are injured. Several are dead.
Thinking back a few days ago, I can’t help but wonder how my driver is feeling now about sending his son to Xinjiang Province for safety. When it comes to Sichuan’s aftershocks or the West’s terrorist activities, maybe our city isn’t so bad after all.
From Chengdu , here’s hoping today’s “Ping An” (peace) can be felt by more than just those reading this Sunday blog from China.