Chengdu is kept clean (the streets, not the air) by an army of low-wage street cleaners employed by both the city (bright orange or blue uniforms) or private businesses (a variety of shirt and pants uniforms here). In general, while this population seems pretty content and happy enough during their tea breaks, these soldiers against dirt and city grime don’t really exude a lot of joy or enthusiasm for their work. Makes sense really. How would you like the Sisyphean task of washing and sweeping the same square meters of pavement everyday?
I never thought of how this work could actually be fun, or whether anyone in Chengdu was up to the task of having fun while working-until today when I witnessed a covert water-fight among a group of these street cleaners.
These women, mostly in their late 40’s, were slugging buckets of water at each other whenever the passer-bys like myself were far enough out of range. One woman had a hose and was wielding it mischievously whenever no one else was looking. Even the women scrubbing down the benches near by were smiling guilty as they made ready to flick their wet rags at their comrades. Just like that, these women made one of the most onerous and awful jobs in the whole city look like a play-time.
It was fun, it was funny. It made my day. Just when I think I’m starting to figure China out, there are always new sites and scenes to catch me (happily) off guard.