The egrets are upset.
From my balcony, I watch the two white birds circle, soar and glide their way over their destroyed home. They float gracefully to the far end of a tiny clump of heavy vegetation which has been left untouched, for the moment. There they gently alight on top of leafy, weeping bamboo stalks before being startled onward by the chaos around them.
I am surprised they want to be anywhere near this area.
The hammering, chiseling, clunking and bulldozing invading our quiet is distracting for all of us.
Mother Nature vs. China, and China is Winning
My previous balcony view of well-tended farmland and heavy tropical forest is now a distant memory as an expressway bridge continues its journey onward behind my building.
It was 1/4 completed 3 years ago, when I first saw it before moving to the new campus. For a year, the workers put on the last finishing touches on what had already gone up. There was a relieving halt which allowed me to continue to enjoy my countryside view.
I embraced every moment of seeing the egrets nestle into their beautiful habitat, knowing full well the end was fast approaching.
And so it came 2 weeks ago.
The bridge’s pathway led directly through the bamboo and banana tree groves (now gone) and a small, snaking wide creek which currently I would downgrade as a mere trickle of a stream.
Our Present Environment
The vibrations of destruction can be felt on the air currents. It rattles my apartment building and sends wave after wave of noise throughout my sitting room. Closing balcony sliding doors doesn’t help, either. I’ve already tried.
This began October 7, on my return to Luzhou after a week of National Day holidays had finished.
In less than a day, our egrets entire habitat was destroyed. In the past 2 weeks, the foresty expanse behind my building has been crowded with heavy equipment plowing through Mother Nature’s wilderness garden. Workers have been busy putting up housing units for themselves under the finished bridge sections and will soon be moving in so the bridge’s construction can continue onward.
The Invasion of Modern China
I am reminded that our campus at one point was most likely a precious haven for wildlife as well. Filled with China’s native plants and indigenous trees, it spread outside of city limits where we now live. Farmers most likely were here, living in their sod houses and tending their plots of land. These were taken away to make room for our school’s new site, begun 5 years ago, and now moving into the final stages of fruition, with landscaping yet to go and more buildings yet to be constructed when the funds are available.
I have also been told that the land surrounding our school has been purchased by other small colleges in the area.
This is something new that has been going around other cities in the country. Colleges and high schools, whose campuses are located in city centers, have been given incentives to move to the outskirts of cosmopolitan areas. This gives land developers more opportunity to put up shopping malls and high-rise buildings in city centers, bringing in more revenue to city governments and putting more people to work building such structures.
Substantial gift funds by city and provincial governments and wide expanses of land are being promised for campuses to move into what are now being called “university cities”. These are clusters of colleges and schools, one after another, located in one location, usually right at the outskirts of a city.
So far, 3 Luzhou educational institutions have taken advantage of these incentives: the Medical College University next to us (moved 7 years ago), our vocational school (moved here last year) and a nearby trade school for high school students (moved 4 years ago).
There is still quite a lot of farmland in between all of us and I’m guessing there will be more schools moving out our way in the next 10 years or so. Already, there is a major 6-lane expressway nearby my campus which has not been opened yet. It is entirely finished, complete with beautiful landscaping and even signs that announce the exits for our school.
It is a ghost road at present, with only a car or two that comes so individuals can practice their driving skills for upcoming car license exams.
The empty expressway is a great place to sit and enjoy the countryside surrounding Luzhou. It’s departing fast, though. Construction crews are popping up all over the place, getting ready for more bulldozing, more construction and more modernization to make room for more campuses in Luzhou’s University City.
A Lone Egret Cries
Last evening, at nearly 11 p.m., I heard a lone egret intermittently calling out again and again and again.
The construction crew had finished for the day, silence finally engulfing our area, which perhaps gave him (or her) the courage to return. I could barely make out the white figure in the dark below but there he was. Our sleek feathered one had positioned himself below my high balcony, in a small clump of still-standing vegetation near the riverbank.
From there, he mournfully voiced his search for his companion, or perhaps his sorrow in losing his home, or maybe even his lament at the fate of old China.
Poor little thing. I feel for you.
From Luzhou, here’s wishing you Ping An (Peace) for your week. Be very thankful that you have it.