As the holidays approach fast, I dedicate my post today to those who work harder than most, who see no retirement day in their near future, and who bear the weight of life and the passing of years. They are all around us, patching up the holes in our social structure, tirelessly moving because stopping is not an option.
In today’s world, pollution is discussed in terms like high or low, toxic or just unhealthy, almost accepting it as a part of everyday life and forgetting to ask the basic question: why do we have to live with it?
a witness of the whirlwind of changes that took over the glamorous city
Behind the modern facade of Shanghai and the fashionable lifestyle of its rich, is a world of tradition hidden in the city’s old alleys. Every week when I visit these neighborhoods, I find less and less of them left. The city is changing so rapidly and the new has no room for the old. Modernization is consuming tradition and Starbucks cups are quickly replacing the famous tea containers of the Shanghainese. A paradise for street photographers, I feel so lucky to have lived in Shanghai as long as I have.
Every stitch on her costume, every threaded bead she decorates herself with, every wrinkle on her face plays a part in telling her story, a life so different to ours, a world so alien to 21st century culture, an existence rising out of old traditions, she belongs to a tribe that allows strangers no access. All I could capture was the sense of her presence and the few photographs that I always hope could link to the state of standing in front of these amazing people.
We were driving along one of the long dirt roads leading to far off villages of Yunnan and neighboring Sichuan when I had a strong instinct to stop the car. And as instincts are mostly right if we choose to listen to them, down a slope on the side of the road this most incredible woman was sitting under a broken umbrella and an old straw hat trying to hide from the blazing sun of the Yunnan mountains. She spoke no words, only gestured with her hands and smiled her glowing toothless smile through a muddy face and tangled hair framing her warm face. In the end of her consenting gladly fo my friend and I photographing her, she asked with hand signals for water that she accepted from us with so much gratitude. She was adorned with strange jewelry and wore muddy rags, but she had the power to leave such a strong impression on us, that I most certainly found myself filing her memory in the ‘unforgettable’ category.
It is such a common sight in Yunnan to see these strong women from the Yi ethnic minority with pipes lit in their mouths puffing at tobacco smoke around the streets, markets and village homes. The pipes are hand crafted and each woman holds on to hers for life proudly. When I asked about the place where we can buy one, I constantly received puzzled looks, “you don’t buy these, you get one made for you when you come of age”!
Eighty five and exploding with stamina~ the bund~ Shanghai
Every once in a while I meet an incredible human, and they remind me that aging is a natural process that only claims our physical body. The spirit is always effervescent if we allow it to be, the soul is only more experienced and our mind can only grow richer if we feed it in the right way. This lady I met this morning, early at sunrise was giggling while doing her morning exercise and very proudly telling my friends and I that she is 85 years old and still feels young and full of energy. She was infectious in her enthusiasm and bright spirit, light as a feather and innocent as a small child. She renewed my hope in life and its beauty and easily added herself to my list of unforgettable people.
One of the wonderful phenomena to watch in Shanghai parks and on its riverside in the early morning, is the congregation of retired men sending their well cared for and brilliantly crafted kites high into the city sky. They do this for long hours watching the extensions of their souls soar into worlds unknown, higher and higher above the noise of the city where all is calm and harmonious, into a state of freedom where they too one day wish to be…