Miriam and I shared a little two-seater carriage pulled by a guy pedaling an attached bicycle. At first I felt guilty, like I was making him do something so “demeaning,” but then I realized I’m helping him make a living, so I just made a note to tip him well for his troubles.
For this “tour within a tour,” our usual guide handed us off to a gal who rode her own bicycle alongside our rickshaws. She wove it expertly in and out among our two vehicles, explaining what we were seeing and answering our questions about the residents of this area.
Her nametag said “Gloria,” and was the cutest little ponytailed gal. She wore a rather “fancy” black dress, sparkly tennis shoes, a long yellow jacket-sweater, and carried a pink and orange purse draped over her arm.
To give us a good taste of the neighborhood “flavor,” she had us stop and walk through a swanky and very private home converted to “hotel,” and then we toured a “normal” home. There we were introduced to grasshopper fighting (no demonstration, but met two noisy grasshoppers), given a small cup of delightful tea, and enjoyed the woman of the house playing the Chinese version of a musical instrument she called a piano but that looked more like a flat guitar. I didn’t catch the actual name of it.
I didn’t want to offend or insult Gloria, but I did want to know what she thought the difference was between a hutong and a ghetto, as I saw many indications of poor living conditions.
She had never heard the word ghetto. After I carefully chose my words to define it, she nodded thoughtfully and said that the hutongs were there to preserve traditional Chinese culture and had nothing to do with a person’s income or social status.
This was a very interesting answer, and wondered if it were the truth, or simply what the people have been told.