Walking down the street right outside the north campus entrance felt a little bit third-world, a little bit plain dangerous. But it was just construction-- in this case, widening of the road. The way it was so exposed shocked me nearly every time I walked it. And unlike in the United States, plenty of vehicles and pedestrians other than automobiles take the road, making it precarious indeed for the bicyclist or rickshaw driver riding along. The over-sized mounds of dirt piled higher than the road and taller than most people grew out of the valleys at each side of the road. Farther down from this spot, tents had been erected for the migrant workers who would stay to complete this project and then move on to the next.
What was truly breathtaking though was the utter speed with which this road was widened. The construction workers must have taken turns with their shifts, working around the clock, because in the four weeks I was there, they completed nearly half a mile--to my eyes. And they were working on both sides. In America, I am always puzzled driving by highway and roadwork projects, for they seem to lack both a plan and a deadline of any sort. Widening can take months, and bigger things, many years to complete. Now, I know we can chalk some of this up to the concessions road workers have to make to keep traffic flowing, so they must keep lanes open and work in the night when fewer people are on the road. But countless forms and numbers of vehicles and people passed through this each day, behaving as though this was absolutely normal and just another part of life--which, really, it is just that. And amongst this continuation of daily life, Yangzhou was expanding at lightning speed.