Fire & Tea
Sipping tea, eating well and travelling often.
My Scholarship entry - Seeing the world through other eyes
WORLDWIDE | Sunday, 11 March 2012 | Views  | Scholarship Entry
Mrs Fong's Hutong House
A rickshaw sits beside a curb whispering for me; more words uttered than my driver. His eyes lead the way before he hunches over his handlebars to pedal through tight streets. The Hutongs demand and are ruled by these simpler modes of getting around.
Along Beijing’s fringes lies this sleepy Hutong of one-storey siheyuan that hug the city sprawl, refusing to be shaken off by modern day China. Siheyuan are knitted into a chain of bonds among residents who rely on community for survival. There’s hierarchy here; basic facilities like toilets may be shared among different families. I rummage through alleyways before stepping across Mrs Fong’s threshold into a secluded courtyard. Vines snake through garden beds, offering plump eggplants. Pigeons gurgle in cages and a fluffy chicken nests soundly.
Despite her elderly age, Mrs Fong possesses a child-like bounce in her step. She hosts me through the inner realm of her daily life. Rather than spaces cramped by unnecessary clutter, I find functional rooms detailed by essentials. By a streaky window I discover crickets housed in wooden cages. Mrs Fong says she’s keen to be close to nature and the creaking is music to her ears.
I sit in a guest room while Mrs Fong serves me a cup of steaming green tea. Five generations of her family have called this house home – one of the area’s oldest families. Mrs Fong is a typical matriarch keeping her family legacy alive and shining in the face of an ever-imposing corporate horizon. I ask about the whereabouts of her family. She says her children live in the city, earning a living for her ageing family; an ever-increasing pattern now. Questions linger like steam from my tea. “What would happen if your children don’t return? What would happen to your house?” She answers with a closed smile: “My children will return here to live.” I nod politely as I cradle my tea and contemplate whether or not my question has been lost in translation.
Tags: Travel Writing Scholarship 2012
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