My wife had promised the Zigen workers a short presentation and a discussion on public and personal health at Zigen’s Community Center. I had accompanied my wife a couple of times to Zigen’s old community center at Sandy River. But since my last visit, Zigen had left Sandy River, along with many migrant workers, and re-located to ShiGe Zhuang village.
With the usual end-of-the-year frantic-ness and busy-ness, it was hard for my wife to find a free evening. Which was why we ended up going to ShiGe Zhuang on Christmas Night. ShiGe Zhuang (史各庄, or the Family Shi’s Village in Hebei province usage), like Sandy River, is a village north of Beijing city. ShiGe Zhuang is actually two exits before Sandy River on the Badaling Highway (and about 14 km from the Fourth Ring Road), but it took us much longer to get there since there are no express buses that go to ShiGe Zhuang. (I assume there will be express bus lines once people move to the new real estate developments there. In any case, the soon-to-be-finished subway/light rail Changping 昌平 line will connect the Number 13 subway line with Changping and points north.)
We arrived at dusk, after our bus sat in heavy traffic all the way until the stop before ShiGe Zhuang. From the bus stop, we saw that the land to the east of the highway was entirely made up of rubble of concrete, brick, wood and glass, remnants of the demolished houses. In the smog, we could see a few buildings, seemingly rising from the rubble, dotting the desolate horizon.
We crossed the pedestrian bridge to the west side of the highway and walked right into a cold but lively ShiGe Zhuang. We met Xiao Zhuo, a Taiwanese volunteer who is spending 6 months at Zigen. Xiao Zhuo took us past the ShiGe Zhuang Elementary School. All along the sidewalk there were carts already set up or being set up, selling stuff of all sorts, from slippers to frying pan, from socks to toys, from buns to pancakes, … Xiao Zhuo eventually led us down one of the side streets, which, though asphalt-paved, reminded me of the dirt roads I remembered from Taiwan in the late ‘70s, but with more dirt, and with grungier shops.
It was heartwarming to see the old Zigen billboard. This community center is a lot smaller than the old one at Sandy River. The familiar blackboards still outlined Zigen’s aims and list the schedule of workshops. The single large room now doubles as both the activity room and the library.
The lights were out when we got there. According to Xiao Zhuo, the landlord was called, but he couldn’t fix the lights. One of the Zigen workers had to string up a light bulb in the middle of the room. We then set up the LCD projector for showing my wife’s powerpoint presentation.
The audience started showing up a little after 5:45 PM, coming in alone or in small groups of two or three. When they came in, they greeted the Zigen workers heartily before finding foldable stools and their spots in the activity room. The Zigen workers started the small make-shift coal-burning furnace in the corner to keep everyone warm. I probably wore more than anyone else there, but felt the coldest and they let me sit next to the furnace.
My wife started out the presentation with a slide reminding the migrant workers of a popular Chinese saying, “地位是暂时的、荣誉是过去的、金钱是身外的、只有健康是自己的.”(My poor translation: “position / social status is temporary, honor / glory is in the past, money is external / a mere worldly possession, only health is yours”)
Then she outlined her presentation, 健康方面关心的问题？(Health Issues You Should Be Concerned About):
- 职业病（噪音、粉尘）professional hazards (noise and dust)
- 外伤急救 emergency treatments for trauma
- 感冒、发烧、肺炎 colds, fever and pneumonia
- 用药安全（抗生素）medicinal safety (use of antibiotics)
- 吸烟与健康 smoking and health
- 营养与健康 nutrition and health