Seniors create little corner of China in garden
The Associated Press.
“Most families have the grandparents here taking care of the young,” Zhang said. “Very few don’t.”
During the day, when the parents are working, and the children are at school, the neighborhood becomes a playground for seniors.
Some grow vegetables and herbs, some exercise and socialize, and some do both.
Because of a small-vessel disease, Zhang had not been physically active the past few years in China. But now, she is in charge of about 100 square feet of land in one of the two gardens, each about the size of an Olympic pool. The gardens are tended by the Chinese families living at the apartment complex, and they work for hours cultivating, planting, watering and harvesting vegetables.
“Because of my health issues, my husband didn’t let me farm in the beginning. He told me, ‘I will take out whatever you plant in!’ ” said Zhang. Regardless, she planted some seeds given to her by the neighbors, and when the chives grew tall, Zhang made chive dumplings.
“My husband had the dumplings and said, ‘Finally a good meal!’ And since then he began to take photos of me farming,” Zhang laughed. “The chives in the supermarket lack flavor, and the leeks are different from Chinese ones. My daughter loved the cucumbers I grew so much.
“We farm for the taste of home.”
“Also, my health is improving. I hardly get a headache these days,” she said. Coming from Beijing, Zhang had never farmed before. Her neighbors who had experience kindly taught her step by step.
“Now she’s doing much better,” said Guo Zhirong, 71, from Sichuan province. Guo and his wife Wang Juyuan, 68, have been in New Haven almost four years, looking after their 3 1/2-year-old grandson.
“We are farmers in China,” Guo said. “If there is no farmland here, life would be so boring. The land is our own, but the vegetables we share.” Though not every family plants, almost all of them get to taste the harvests.
“A lot of people share,” Zhang said. “Yesterday I wanted to give my neighbor Mr. Ma some chives, but he already got some from another neighbor.”
When Zhang arrived at the garden one recent morning, she was heartbroken to learn that raccoons had eaten her Chinese lettuce. Sometimes, squirrels eat the tomatoes. But she is happy that her chives are growing fast and decided to make some chive scrambled eggs for lunch.
Across the street from the garden one block south, under three giant European beech trees, there is a party from 9 am to noon, Monday to Friday.
“When there are new people to the community, we meet under the trees to chat,” said Qi Xiaoyu, 63, from Beijing. Qi was visiting her son for a short period, and she had already made many friends. “Sometimes we sing songs and exercise together. Starting next week, we are beginning to do tai chi.” On that day, they took pictures of each other under the shade.
Although Qi doesn’t farm, she often shares in the cooking. On Thursdays, she, Zhang and other friends take the bus to the Hong Kong market.
“The market gets fresh fish on every Thursday!” said Zhang. “We gather by the road at 10 am and leave together.”
As she headed back to her apartment around noon, Zhang was called by her neighbor Tang Yongxiu, 70. “Do you want some dumplings?” Tang asked.
“We are too old to integrate into the American society. The best we can do is to say ‘Hello! Morning!’ in English,” Zhang said. “So we just live our own simple life.”
Zhang Zaixian, 63, of Beijing,