Normally the front entrance of the school is filled with purple and green bushes crisscrossing and intertwining to make colorful lines from afar. One day a giant boulder showed up, stuck around for a few weeks, and the mysteriously disappeared.
Then the green bushes disappeared as did the purple. The whole front was emptied and for a couple of days, remained a giant patch of dirt. Then, just as abruptly it was filled with trees to make a veritable forest. In one day.
And we ain’t talking about teeny tiny trees starter trees, but trees that are fully grown and fully mature. There are trees that are 20+ feet tall, and of all varieties as well.
The funny thing is I’ve been led to believe that transplanting tall trees was impossible. That once trees reached a certain height, or age, they could not longer be moved without dying. I remember attending a town meeting about a new supermarket. My hometown is a small, one stop-light type town and the residents fought the new development as much as they could. When the building seemed inevitable, we argued the specifics, including the trees that separated the store from the road. The townspeople wanted big, bushy trees to hide the building as much as possible. But the developer said it was impossible. We are buying the biggest trees possible, but you just can’t move a fully grown tree.
Turns out he was wrong according to Chinese standards. (Although, to be fair some of Ryan’s students, who are forestry majors, said that moving these huge trees isn’t the best for the trees and they will never be as healthy as if they were not moved.)
The process of moving the trees has been fascinating to watch. For a couple of days I noticed workers digging out trees from all over campus. They would take one or two from one area, and one or two from another, leaving behind giant crater holes that look like remnants of a mortar bombing. I never had time to sit and watch the full process (which takes several hours each I think), but they apparently dig a big hole around the roots, wrap the whole bottom of the tree in rope, and lift it right out. There was a group of about 7-8 guys working on each tree.
I guess this is another example of a culture difference. Why don’t we do this in the US? I think one of the major reasons is man power. Like I said, there were 7-8 guys that would work on one tree for hours. A western company couldn’t (or wouldn’t) want to spend that much money just to move one tree. But in China, where labor is cheap and plentiful, it is less of a problem.
But it is also following the requests of authority. If the head of the school said he wanted it done, then it will be done, no matter what. Blind obedience, and not questioning authority is part of the culture here, not matter how odd the request. I think if the head of a western school decided to build a forest in one day, he would be talked out of it by many people, but not here.
And of course it is a reminder of the constant change that happens here in China. It’s like the other day when we went to our favorite bike guy in town. Turns out not only was he no longer there, but the entire block was completely torn down. One day you have a thriving city block and the next a pile or rubble. Or one day you have an entrance filled with colorful bushes and the next a forest. You never know what is going to happen around here.
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