Life in Xinzheng

December 17

A sudden sunny day after a week of gray and bitter cold days was excuse enough for a walk through town. Xinzheng, the town where Sias University is located, has an august history. Huan Di, the legendary ancestor and ruler of the unified Chinese nation, was born here more than 2,000 years ago. That’s him in the traffic circle.

The revered Huan Di presides in a traffic circle

Today, Xinzheng is a small, rather dusty town with little to especially recommend it. Nevertheless, it is home to me now and is the site of much of my learning about daily life in China. So let me share what I have seen and observed.

There is construction everywhere, and it happens seven days a week. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration hasn’t come to China yet. Construction is done in whatever clothes a worker has handy, including blazers and dress shoes, no steel-toed boots here. It does kick up quite a bit of dust. Shopkeepers sweep many times each day, and they use these beautiful willow brooms — see one in the back of the cat below.

Kelly with a cart and willow broom

Another challenge created by the construction and the pollution is that many people wear masks. It is not unusual to see people dressed elegantly with a mask over their mouth.

Build they must

Traffic is frightening. I don’t know if they are great drivers or the worst ever. They don’t have accidents, but they also don’t obey any apparent rules. They pass on the right or left. They weave in and around. They pull out into oncoming traffic to pass on the left. And they love the horn.

They also use everything from pull-carts full of heavy construction materials to station wagon bikes and motor scooters to brand-new name-brand cars. Check out the photo of the three vehicles.

Range of transportation

Many people don’t own transportation, so bikes and scooters are rented; there’s a photo below of a bike rental area outside the campus gate.

Rent a bike here

Street food is as diverse as in New York City. My personal favorite is the whole sweet potatoes. They also have huge long stalks of sugarcane that is cut and peeled.




One of the most delightful aspects of a walk along any Chinese street is the frequency of young children out with parents and grandparents. Children everywhere are pretty darn adorable and China is no exception. The most remarkable fact is that I have only seen one child crying in my entire time here.

Today’s walk led us into the center of town and the large park located there. There was an impromptu playground created by a very large tarp, covered with dried corn kernels. There were a dozen or more children under three playing with the corn like a sandbox.

Another fascinating aspect of childrearing in China are “split pants.” Small children don’t wear diapers. The crotch of their pants has a split, and from a very young age they grunt and squat when they are outside. No wonder the Chinese are so adamant about no shoes in the house!

Hey Mom, is there a draft here, or what?

The park was a bustling place today. We saw a band and a series of karaoke singers. It was great fun to watch them, not quite as fun to listen. They tried to get us to participate but they didn’t look like they could play “Heard It Through the Grapevine.”



Karaoke in the park

Further into the park, we watched art students sketching a little boy. Moments later Kelly and I were asked to model for the art students; you can see our picture of them sketching us and one of their sketches. They gathered quite a crowd.

These art students asked to sketch us








It has been very cold here, and it was glorious to get out in the sunshine and walk through our town of Xinzheng.


Sweeat potato vendor

Sugar cane vendor


About eastmeetswestley

For the next 7 weeks I'm in central rural China, teaching at a university-based women's leadership academy.
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