Big City Dreams Along a Shanghai Road
OB Schmitz is the China correspondent for American Public Media’s radio program In 2010, he settled in Shanghai in a neighborhood named Summit in the former French Concession. The surroundings are always noisy due to the hustle and bustle of people in the vegetable market, long queues of customers waiting outside the
(steamed stuffed bun) house, and the old Chinese women, Chinese dancing in the plaza accompanied by loud pop music. There are also three hospitals along the road, in front of which blaring ambulances go rushing by.
Two rows of London plane trees were planted every 15 feet or so in the 19th century by the French who occupied the area at that time. The green avenue provides shade for bystanders from the scorching summer sun. Every day, Rob Schmitz rode his bicycle through this area, passing in and out of vehicles and motorbikes.
For a book about China, Rob Schmitz looked no further than the people who live and work along the very street he lived on – Changle, the Street of Eternal Happiness. Just as he said, it is important to know about the common people of China: what they are doing; and what are most important for them.
For example, 30-year-old Chen Kai is a young entrepreneur who concurrently runs an accordion business and a sandwich shop. Chen was born in a middle-class family in Hunan Province and learned accordion as a child. After his graduation from a university in Guangdong, Chen worked in a state-owned accordion factory for three years and then quit to go work for an Italian accordion maker from whom he learned how to make these beautiful instruments. These skills helped him earn a large sum of money from selling handmade, Italian brand accordions. However, Chen Kai was not satisfied with his life, for his interests were neither playing nor making accordions. With accumulated funds and supports from friends, he instead opened a sandwich shop on the Street of Eternal Happiness.