Mengjinzhuang Village, Hebei Province, China
I spent this past summer in China, working on a project at Tsinghua University and spending time with relatives. It had been over 8 years since I visited my father's village in Hebei, and I was eager to see the changing rural landscape.
A new schoolhouse was recently completed, donated by a generous Taiwanese businessman, but the old one still remained standing, abandoned and deteriorating. My cousin Mengmeng led me to see her old classroom where she spent her elementary days. The last lesson remained on the blackboard, still remarkably clear and untouched. Ghosts of child-sized footprints could still be seen on the dusty floors. The walls were covered in posters of heroes of the Communist Revolution, starkly contrasting with portraits of famous Western scientists. Looking up at the ceiling, I could see rows of frozen dinner packages adding extra insulation, attesting to the resourcefulness of resource-strapped villagers.
As Mengmeng pulled out her new smartphone to weChat with her friend, I realized how much the village had changed in just 8 years. Economic and technological progress is reaching even the poorest rural areas of China, and scenes such as the old schoolhouse will soon be faded memories.
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