This is Spring Festival in China, where I lived in for five years. I went there out of curiosity, I stayed out of love. I had just graduated and had met some Chinese students who made a good impression on me, I had only been out the country once and had loved it, I wanted to see the world. China seemed like a good place to start.
China had opened itself up to the world and the world responded in kind. What an exciting place full of transitions. Shanghai and Guangzhou were already international cities. Beijing was holding the Olympics, one of the most international events in the world.
I love nature and I am concerned about our environment, about the way our communities develop and grow. During my preliminary visit a year earlier, I saw people using vacuum tube solar hot water heaters, I saw that most homes had a balcony facing south to capture heat in the winter, appliances seemed very efficient, in the high rise cities the street level was full of small shops, bike lanes had a physical barrier separating them from cars, trucks and buses. There is so much I wanted to investigate.
But what impressed me the most was the excitement people shared with me, their optimism. It was everywhere, it was infectious. There were still traditions, like a week long holiday for Spring Festival, most large cities had an “old town”, people in the cities would find a patch of ground and plant vegetable gardens, there were traditional medicine hospitals. The south facing balcony design was partly derived from fengshui (風水 – wind and water). Everything was there to be breathed in, with an electric feeling of excitement about the future.
I wanted to learn and experience it all, then come back and see what might work here.