Monday, May 5, 2014

Two Brief Encounters in Hengyang

After I took a photo of an architecturally intriguing department store while I waited at an intersection in Hengyang, Hunan province, someone behind me enthusiastically said in English, "Beautiful!"

I turned around and saw a man on a motorbike smiling at me. After a brief friendly chat, he happily agreed to pose for a photograph:

man on motorbike in Hengyang, China

When the light turned green he rode off with a hearty "Goodbye".

A little more than 10 minutes later as I was walking on a sidewalk, a college student I hadn't noticed before approached me and said hello. Without any prompting from me, he then shared that he felt pleased about having just earned money for handing out flyers. I found out he made 40 yuan (about US $6.40) for 6 hours of work--less per hour than the amount earned by two college students I met a year and a half ago in Hunan's capital, Changsha, who had similar part time jobs (see here and here). I would not be surprised if the going rate was lower in the smaller city of Hengyang, though, and I have met many students elsewhere in China who would consider his part-time job a good deal. So I congratulated him, and he then headed to a bus stop to take a bus back to his university.

These two brief experiences made my Saturday in Hengyang a little more interesting and touch on themes, some more obvious than others, I have raised before. And as much as the experiences were unexpected, neither was unprecedented, and they are consistent with others I have had in China.

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