Se­niors cre­ate lit­tle cor­ner of China in gar­den

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE -

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.”

HEZI JIANG / CHINA DAILY

Zhang Zaix­ian, 63, of Bei­jing,

Guo Zhi­rong,

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