Thursday, May 31, 2007


This is the next chapter in the ongoing saga of the ad hoc street market that forms on the sidewalk outside our apartment.

A quick background: our town of Huamu Xincun has only one vegetable wet market, located next to our house, so an ad hoc street market has been born on the sidewalk below our balcony. Our official veggie market has a reputation of being expensive. Browsing some neighborhood BBSs online I heard stories of people taking the bus to a wholesale market in nearby Beicai to get better prices. Part of the high prices at our market comes from the market being the only one in town, but I'd be willing to bet that another part comes from high rents charged to the vendors; again, short supply. Hence the impromptu sidewalk market that forms outside our house: no rent means cheap prices for us neighbors, and vendors are glad for the space to sell their produce/fowl/fish/knick-knacks...

Get yer veggies

Book bike


Baby stuff for sale

Dentist, street

Now, on with the story. Just as I predicted, about 3 or 4 days after I wrote that last post I came home from school to find an empty sidewalk. Jodi's mom reported that eight police trucks and vans had come that morning and kicked out all of the street vendors, taking away their merchandise and equipment. That turned out to be the end of the street market...

...for about a week. About a week later the vendors came back slowly but surely and took up their usual spots, again marking off their "stalls" with plastic bags, leaving trash on the curb, napping during the midday lull, and even stringing up sheets between the trees along the sidewalk and the cast-iron poles of our downstair neighbors' solarium fence to give them some shade as the days get hotter.

Combs for sale

Apple vendor


Until this morning. As I walked out into the balcony/study to grab my backpack and leave for work, Jodi's mom passed me and mentioned that they were here again. About five or six police trucks were parked outside, the hauling off of vendor property being supervised by both police and 城管, the so-called "city managers" oft associated with corruption and petty violence towards street vendors. Hearing this, I grabbed my camera and popped a quick picture as I headed out the gate of our apartment complex, badmouthing th authorities in my mind as they cleaned up our source of cheap vegetables.

Taking our market away

As luck would have it, it was not the last time these guys would ruin a part of my day. I had covered the few hundred meters to the Century Park metro station and was about to buy a 饭团 "rice breakfast burrito" from the usual guy at the metro entrance when the police trucks rolled by, fat and cocky after finishing with our street market. Of course like the thugs that they are they wouldn't miss a chance to intimidate the little guy so they pulled out their bullhorns and started launching threats at the breakfast vendors.

Bullying the breakfast vendors

Only the newspaper lady was courageous enough to stay. As I bought my daily Shanghai Morning Post (she even saves a copy for me if I'm late, hiding it under the Youth Daily stack), I watched my 饭团 flee down around the corner to Meihua Rd.

The consolation is that, whereas last time it took about a week for the market to return, by the time I got home today from buying a Children's Day present for Charlotte (plus Pirates 3, Candyman and a Korean horror flick) the market had already started setting up. Not quite as big as it was before, but there's room to grow.


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