Project updated by Alice Fang, Aiwa Musihua, Caroline Nowacki, Qihan (Philip) Luo
Every hutong we visit seems steeped in stories. There are different stories for different times of day—different groups of people catching the breeze by their doors, different tones and colors like the rush of life when children are let loose from the neighboring elementary school. We are, at once, participants and observers. As researchers, we take in the life and the sights around us, interviewing elderly couples sitting by their doorway, and stopping to ask children where they play. But needless to say, we have likely also become the object of dinnertime conversation for the families of people we interviewed.
Static scenes in the hutong present stories begging to be told. Here, a Buick is parked next to chickens, and a trash can with red wine, half eaten 馒头 [buns], and other trash.
Project update by Tucker Bryant, Zirai Huang, Mercedes Peterson, Yuxiao Pu
Fantastic Fieldwork in Fugoli + Fenghuiyuan 一级棒的富国里和丰汇园实地调研
Today we dove feet first into the fieldwork aspect of our Land Use Project; quite literally managed to land inside a taxi right off campus, hustling inside before we even gave the driver a chance to blink. Tucker, Yuxiao, Ray and I decided to try out a couple different methods of transportation other than our usual subway rides; this had the twofold purpose of trying to master the Beijing traffic situation as well as experiencing the slightly strange adventure that cabbing in Beijing entails.
Our recent focus has been understanding the ecosystem of the various different bicycle livelihoods — from providing services like recycling or parcel delivery, to providing goods and products like food or phone cases, and from legal status to illegal status.
First, we learned that a bicycle livelihood used to be, and has the potential to be very lucrative. The parcel delivery guy moved to Beijing specifically because of his job, and the person who collects recycled good reminisced the “good old days”, when one can make almost 10,000 RMB/month (a salary higher than that of a recent Tsinghua grad). It’s a service that the people enjoy and still enjoy using, considering that the recycling man oftentimes receives calls from a set of clients that he has.
Second, we learned that even though the pay is above average and working conditions relatively pleasant and flexible, some of our interviewees still did not tell their families about their jobs due to a sense of embarrassment. However, other individuals were more than happy to share with us their stories.
Project update by Geena Chen, William Woo, Sophia Wu, Fay Yang
We discovered firsthand at the Tesla showroom that Tesla vehicles are very intentionally marketed towards an elite set of users. In the front and back trunks of the display Teslas were an expensive foldable bike and a duffel bag of golf clubs. The wall advertisements also showed a Tesla parked at a golf course. The images advertised the Tesla as a luxury plaything.
On the other hand, the grandfather we spoke to on the street brought the discussion back to practicality. His three-wheel electric bike, which is able to squeeze through traffic and requires low costs to purchase and maintain.