The Lives of Others

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Today my post is not going to be as flighty as usual. I would like to tell you about this particular anecdote that came to my mind while I was randomly talking to an acquaintance about my nightlife.

Not long ago, my friends and I were hanging out in a very fancy Shanghainese club. It was late, there was a great ambiance, the party was in full swing.

We met this group of international students who were in exchange at Fudan too. They were enjoying their night at a table where were standing a multitude of bottles and two creamy cakes.

It was a lot. I would say too much for the number of people they were.

What you need to know is that, in Shanghai, Western people always get free entrance to nightclubs. It is not rare at all to even get free drinks, a table, or bottles of champagne offered by the club. Some friends told me it is because international kids attracts local Chinese partygoers.

So, these people were enjoying all these goodies that they got for free. They did not even order those cakes at all (I mean, who would eat two American style cakes at 2 AM in a crowded club?).

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One of the student started to carry the huge cake around, but he was already pretty tipsy so it seemed like a harsh task for him. Not surprisingly, it ended up falling on a stranger’s suit and felt on the floor, not even started yet.

That could have been a pretty funny anecdote to tell others without what happened next. A Chinese cleaning lady appeared from nowhere and started to wipe the disaster. Her clothes were teared up, her hair was greasy and she seemed exhausted.

In China, I can see on a daily basis poor people liker her. They are street vendors. They are street cleaners. They play instruments or make bamboo baskets to subsist. Most of them don’t speak Mandarin or are illiterate. They are sometimes not homeless, having a family and a home, but live in extremely terrible conditions, in shanty town, with a few dollars per day.

As I watched this lady cleaning up this cake, that I know was probably from one of the many expensive Western bakeries in town, I thought, how many times in her life did she get to eat this? I don’t think I am wrong when I say hardly ever. And now, she is just putting in the trash an entire wasted cake.

I am not saying that the students were wrong for accepting the club gifts and enjoying their time.

I just wish sometimes people, who live everyday being confronted to high poverty, could appreciate and respect what they have, and what others don’t.

Photo sources: edition.cnn.com, mrwallpaper.com 

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