|Typical crowded bookshelf in Chinese House--just like ours|
I can’t speak for Chuck, my infamous cat, but the day I knew we were visiting an honest to goodness Chinese house--well, let’s just say, my curiosity level shot to the roof.
We’d been traveling around Beijing for days--and we’d seen the Summer Palace, the Beijing Zoo, the Great Wall, Tianamen Square, and the Forbidden City. All famous tourist sites. And they were great, but there’s nothing like seeing the way the real people live.
“Chuck,” I said to him, “We’re going to be visiting a 300 year old house. In the Hutong district of Beijing.” Now, the Hutong district is the historic district of Beijing. It’s the way the city used to look--narrow streets, one story houses, many of which shared a community bathroom and had a heating system which had to be manually operated--fed coal or wood. People lived this way until quite recently (ten to fifteen years ago) when the government decided to modernize the city.
|The house we visited in Hutong district, the historic district of Beijing, China|
In fact, when I first visited Beijing and stayed there, I stayed in the Hutong district so that was my memory of the way Beijing looked. When people asked, what does Beijing look like, I described it as very historic looking--old, quaint.
Now, I had returned eight years later to a completely different place. This new Beijing looked like any other cosmopolitan city. The streets were jammed with traffic. High rise buildings and malls for shopping filled the city. In fact, underneath our hotel was a top notch, high end mall with a mega-sized skating rink and all the shops you’d expect as if you were in New York City--including Kate Spade and Cold Stone creamery.
Beijing has a population of approximately 25 million people, so you can imagine the challenges of the housing situation. High rise apartments replaced approximately 80% of the Hutong historic district. Our guide Julia, who used to live in the Hutong district, explained that her family had been relocated to an apartment with central heating and a bathroom. She had no complaints!
Today we were visiting a solid middle class family. Three people lived in this house. We were invited to a typical country style lunch prepared by the owners’ daughter and her aunt. The food was served family style. Platters of food were placed on the table and you served yourself. The entrees offered were freshly prepared with an emphasis on vegetables.
The house itself would be considered small by American standards. The walls were plaster and painted white. A few paintings done by the owner were scattered about. The furnishings were haphazard and reminded one of a college dorm atmosphere. There was a courtyard in the back with some plants and a bicycle.
|Through this window, you can see the courtyard--the plants and bicycle|
|The corner of the living room area which shows the paintings hung on the wall.|
|One of the two bedrooms in the house|
I was struck by the contrast. This simple house--representing the typical middle class Chinese lifestyle--stood in contrast to the expanse of the Great Wall or the breadth of Tianamen Square or the sheer massive square footage of the Forbidden City.
I don’t know what Chuck thought of the house. He sniffed around, as usual, then growled because the family also had a dog--which was a change from eight years ago.
Eight years ago, it was forbidden in China to own any kind of pet other than a bird. No dogs or cats. Now, however, one dog is allowed per household. There is no longer any limit on cats.
China, in this regard, has become a kinder and gentler place.
But now, we had a definite problem--dog versus cat.
Chuck was in the tiny kitchen, sniffing around, when the owner’s daughter walked in with a yapping dog on her heels.
|The tiny, super crowded kitchen where Chuck meets the Chinese dog|
|Side view of refrigerator--looked amazingly like ours|
Chuck froze. Then he growled.
I have to say--for a cat--he’s got plenty of guts.
The dog barked. But then he also froze.
We had the typical stand-off, like in the Hollywood movies.
Who would be fast enough to draw their gun first and shoot the other fellow down? Or in this case--jump on the other guy?? chase the other guy??
I wasn’t sure what was going to happen.
But, in truth, nothing did. Or, had a chance to.
I grabbed onto Chuck. The owner tackled her dog. We both smiled at each other. She spoke no English, and I speak no Chinese.
She disappeared into the other room with her dog.
“Chuck, is that any way to behave? Think of American-Chinese relations. What did that poor dog do to you anyway?”
But the Chuckster really wasn’t listening. Once the danger had dissipated, Chuck went back to what he was doing before--sniffing around--looking for the Chinese version of --yeah, you guessed it-CAT SNACKS. We don’t call him the “belly-boy” for nothing.
If you want to read more about Chuck and his antics, log onto www.katelutter.com.
Wild Point Island, my paranormal romance novel, is now available for purchase at Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.com in both paperback and ebook formats. E Book Reviewers gave it 5 stars. Readers have called it a real page turners. Even Chuckie likes it when I read it aloud.