Saturday, November 1, 2014

Sunday in the Park (Shanghai)

A front blew through last night, heavy rain and high winds, yielding blue skies, bright sun, cool breezes, and fallen autumn leaves. Zhongshan Park in Shanghai is like any city park in Manhattan or Chicago. At the entrance, vendors spread their wares along the pavement, selling kites, whirligigs, bubble blowers and other good toys for a park outing. Within, meandering paths lead over little bridges, along greenswards, through shady groves of bamboo, oak, and even a small stand of redwoods. Park benches are scattered along circular plazas where couples practices ballroom dancing or small groups move in silent Tai Chi meditation. There is a small lake with boat rentals and a little amusement park with spinning swings and a carousel. Families are out today, loving their children (and their smart phones) and contentedly enjoying the sun and each others' company. These are middle-class, urban families, comfortably arrayed and equipped with strollers and back packs. Their children are gifted with balloons and toys, running about in windbreakers and sport shoes. This is China's baby boom. The grandparents easily remember a the great privation and distress of the Cultural Revolution, barely 40 years ago (1966-76) during which our baby boom was protesting the Vietnam War. This new urban China baby boom, like ours, emerges from hardships to bask in new material comfort. A rising middle class is enjoying luxuries unimaginable a short time ago. If patterns repeat themselves, this baby boom will soon develop the perennial distrust of the Establishment. Already the cities are up against a discovery of pollution similar to that which ignited America's environmental movements. The saturation of materialism may likewise lead to a similar questioning of values and ideology, fueled by increasing higher education and international influences. Maybe. It remains to be seen.

Today, however, I feel the warmth of the sun, the peace of the pastoral setting, the beauty of families, and the sense, however fleeting, that all is well. I am especially missing my son, Jordan, who would fit in with all the other children, and whose company would make this day complete. Monday is his 6th birthday and I cannot wait to hug him up close.

Meanwhile, I am happy to begin another week of work tomorrow, and grateful that I will be spending next Sunday at home.