An hour into my train ride out of Jiangyin last week, I received a text about the parent-teacher meeting I was supposed to be at later that day. Needless to say, I did not make it to the meeting and I’m still not sure what it was about. But I heard I had the honor to be mentioned by the Dean. Apparently, “a foreigner is washing their bowl too long in the canteen.” Feedback at its most effective.
It seems like I am constantly filling up my 1.5L kettle to boil drinking water. Since the beginning of the year, I’ve used about 393 liters (over 100 gallons) of water just for drinking. How dare I drink that much water inside this school. As the world’s largest water user, it’s baffling to think how much water China’s 1.3 billion people use to wash their own bowls every day.
Anyway, even if I wasn’t the informant’s target, I have been thinking about how much water I really have been wasting, and just waste in general. It seems that there is so much more waste here because it is not neatly tucked away in landfills, but accumulates on the side of roads, in front of bus stops and houses.
Land is disappearing rapidly under new large-scale development projects in China, mostly high rises. Urbanization has eaten up most of the farms people need to live off of. But, people still need to eat, so where did they move the farm? In between everything and anything.
A couple weeks ago, while waiting for the bus, I watched an elderly man working on his own tiny patch of land just off the road. I watched him carry a bucket across the road to the pond, step cautiously out onto a thin plank, and dip the bucket suspended by string into the green, filmy water. I watched his slow but measure movements and wondered what he was growing. I checked out his plot yesterday, but I didn’t see anything except overgrown weeds, but I did find this little successful garden (photo below).
This is the real urban farming. When I used to think of it, it existed in my mind a sort of superfluous trendy concept. Something for yuppies to do on their high rise terraces. But urban farming is so much more. It’s survival. I guarantee that most of the veggies I buy from the market are grown in tiny plots bordered by piles of old tires or oil barrels. Land suitable for farming is minimal in Jiangyin since much of the outer villages seem to remain in constant heaps of rubble. Cleaning up the areas for agriculture would be no small project.
Check out more urban farming in China.
And around the world.