Tuesday, April 22, 2003

Beautiful Day

When Jeri and I flew to Hangzhou last Thursday afternoon, maybe 10 persons on a completely filled aircraft wore face masks. Today, on the return flight, every passenger and flight attendant wears a mask. The attendants wear plastic gloves as well.
It is a beautiful day. I woke up this morning and saw a cloudless sky. About 8 am I went for a walk to the grocery store and bought some bread for sandwiches on the flight back to Shenzhen and then by Ferry back to Hong Kong. Beautiful Beautiful Day! Yesterday saw Hangzhou transformed from one city to another. On Sunday it was found that 3 persons, then 4 had SARS in Hangzhou. Previous to this time, the province had been SARS-free. Within an hour people (just a few) were wearing masks. Then on this beautiful morning I saw vendors along the street selling masks. People stopped to bargain for a cheap price.
But what about 4 men I met yesterday?

The first was the driver of one of the little motorcycle-powered get-alongs. I don't know what they are called, or to what they can be compared. It is a little taxi that is built around a motorcycle. The driver sits in the front and two (or if you are small three) passengers can sit on a seat behind. Built on the same principle as a tricycle, it is a great mode of transportation. I rode one back from the cloth market. Jeri had a suit made, and I didn't have enough money to pick it up, so had to return to Ben and Bess's to get more money. I rode in such a little contraption as I have described. The driver was a happy and very pleasant fellow probably in his late 20's. I wanted him to wait for me at the apartment and take me back. I invited him to wait in the lobby. He smiled and said he couldn't, then pointing to his legs indicated that he was crippled. It seemed from the withered appearance of his that he had been a victim of polio. I don't know what his expenses for rent/upkeep or gasoline of his taxi are, but I am guessing that on a really good day he maybe can make 100 Yuan (around $12.50) before expenses. I am just guessing, I don't know. But he gets 5 Yuan per fare taken, as they don't do long hauls.

The second was Wei Bing, a guy who takes occasional Bible studies and will now and then teach some Chinese to Ben or Bess. He works at a health spa, and likes to come and just hang out at the kids apartment. He lives in a single room with 4 sets of bunk beds. However, he is fortunate in that only the bottom bunks are occupied by persons. The upper bunks can be used for personal belongings. Wei Bing has told me that he earns 20 Yuan a day, or about $2.50.
The third was the man who gave me a ride home last night in his pedal cab. He wore shabby clothes and was old and tired. I don't know how much he earns in a day, but it can't be much.
And then the 4th. He carried a little saw horse on his shoulder with a hand powered grinding wheel on it. He walked down the street calling out that he would sharpen scissors or knives. I didn't note anyone eager to use his services. How much could he earn in a day?

Last night Wei Bing called me. Did I have any hand sanitizer. Yes, of course. Could he and a friend please each have one bottle. One bottle costs about 40 Yuan. Two days wages for Wei Bing.
A new hospital, not yet finished, had the 10th floor rushed to completion. This floor will be used to care for any foreigners who get SARS in Hangzhou. Some friends went to tour the facility and see if it was suitable. The report was glowing. All private rooms and private baths. TV's and phones for each patient. And if 5 people contract SARS and one is a foreigner, where will the other four go?


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