I mentioned before how fortunate I was to be able to go on vacation with a Chinese family because I got to see things a westerner normally wouldn’t be exposed to. A major example of this was a detour we took on the way home from the mountain, stopping at the site of the 2008 Chengdu earthquake. Spring’s uncles claimed we had friends who perished in the disaster and paid a little bribe in order to get us access to the damage site (this is pretty common practice in China, though perhaps morally foggy from western standpoint). Rather than rebuild where the town had been destroyed, the entire town was relocated and rebuilt a few miles away, leaving the old city a ghost town. Foreigners are literally forbidden from visiting this place, so David put his hat on me and told me to keep the car window rolled up and my head down til we got in.

chengdu earthquake
chengdu earthquake

Once inside the gates, we parked the cars and were able to walk around the streets of the deserted city. It was like walking into the post apocalypse. It felt heavy and sad, and even Spring’s normally clowning relatives were quiet as we walked around, taking it all in. The rubble was swept out of the roads and roped off, with memorial signs placed periodically with portraits of the dead. David explained a few of the plaques to me, like a school where most of the teachers and students were killed and the survivors had to tear up curtains from the top floors to make an escape rope.

chengdu earthquake
This is the school.

chengdu earthquake
chengdu earthquake
chengdu earthquake

It was getting dark and we had seen enough. Somewhat subdued, we piled into the cars as a mournful drizzle started up, ushering us out of the ghostly place. Exhausted from our long day (and for me the emotional stress of the earthquake), we were only too glad to leave, and much of the ride home was spent in silence.

chengdu earthquake
chengdu earthquake
chengdu earthquake

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