An Elephant Through a Microscope

Five years ago, when I was living in Shanghai, China, I started photographing and interviewing my neighbors. I called the project “An Elephant Through a Microscope” because I was trying to learn more about the giant city of Shanghai by meeting individual citizens.

I just found my old notebooks with the transcripts of the interviews:

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At home, I am so busy even though I am retired.


Chinese Zodiac:

Where do you live?
I live with my children, so I can help them raise my granddaughter and get her to school. My husband drives her to school, and when things are too busy I take her on my bike.

What do you do?
I am retired now. I used to sell machines, optical cable lines, and electric cables. I liked it. I also did sales. I did this job when I lived in Yangpu district.

Shanghai in two words?
A huge and modern city, the Pudong part is.

What will Shanghai be like in 15 yeasr?
I’ll be 77! I’ll be almost 80! It’ll be very rich, very strong and rich. Definitely better than it is now.

What do you like to do in your freetime?
I go to the park and exercise and walk and hang out. At home, I am so busy even though I am retired. We are going to Hong Kong for Spring Festival this year. My granddaughter has been there before. She has been to Japan, too. We went to Japan after she finished kindergarten. Kids are so happy because they can go anywhere. We couldn’t do that we when we were young. The quality of life is much better now. We all have just one kid now, too.

Do you have any other family?
I have two elder sisters and one little brother and a little sister. I’m the third of five.

What are your dreams for the future?
I want my granddaughter to be healthy and study well. I don’t have a dream for myself. I just want good health. It is expensive to see the doctor. I want to be able to eat what I want and have good health.

What is your greatest fear?
That my kids will get sick. And air pollution, and water pollution. The environment is bad here. Seafood is getting bad. It is getting too cold. If you get sick, you have to wait at the hospital for two hours. You wait a half a day. There are too many people at the doctors now. The weather has been terrible recently. It is even snowing outside right now.

What is your favorite memory of your youth?
Just playing. Just playing. When we were young, right? Just playing. We went to theater and operas, too. It wasn’t hard to study hard back then, because we had our mom who made clothes and washed them, too. She fixed socks, too. We had none of those things when we were young. And now kids have tutors for their studies and specific classes for tests.

Do you have any questions for me?
Do you have a girlfriend? Are you married? Do you have any advice for my granddaughter? Are your parents with you here? Who do you live with? How do you spell your full name? How many siblings do you have?



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