Photo offensive

(Not to be confused with offensive photos.) People have started complaining that we don’t have enough photos up. A giant pile of photos is coming soon; I’ve launched a picture-taking offensive, carrying the camera everywhere and taking pictures of everything. The plan is to take a gazjillion photos of everyday life around here and the people we see everyday, and create some representative galleries of what public life in our neighbourhood looks like.

Jessica and some students headed to the park

But I have issues. Somewhere in past international travels I developed this hang-up with taking pictures of people. It just seemed wrong to invade their personal space; I’m afraid of being the obnoxious tourist. Plus, being the relatively super-tall white guy with a camera in an over-populated public place tends to increase one’s self-consciousness. I accidentally took a picture of our boss the other day – he was walking through a crowd that I was shooting, and I didn’t notice until that night when I downloaded them off the camera. Some days you feel whiter than others.

But I’ve reached a compromise. It’s much easier to take someone’s picture if you’ve talked with them for a while, and you ask. People are more interesting than anything else about a place; photo albums with no people are boring. So, I’m going to take tons of pictures… and just be nice about it.

Kicking Mr. Tumnus

We read chapter 2 of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe this morning – that’s the part where Lucy meets Mr. Tumnus and he feels guilty for kidnapping her, asks for her forgiveness, and then sneaks her to safety at great risk to his own life. We asked the students what they would have done if they were Lucy. Everyone said they would forgive Tumnus like Lucy did, except for the class clown who said he’d fight, but not before our stereotypically-cute-7-year-old-Asian-girl said, “I would kick him!”

Welcome to the City

This guy’s sign says, “I’m looking for a women to marry” and “Please come talk.”

His sign, the cobble stones, and his clothes and appearance compared to that of the people around him suggest that he’s a peasant from the countryside who has migrated to the city. In this picture he’s in some downtown shopping area surrounded by middle-class urbanites, looking for a wife.

Every year in China, migrant workers equivalent in number to the entire population of Canada move from the countryside to the city seeking work and escape from rural poverty. Collectively they are referred to as “China’s floating population.”

If this guy manages to marry an urban resident he’ll likely be able to legally stay in the city. Otherwise he won’t have legal residency when his work (usually unskilled labour on building projects) is done. Without legal residency, he’ll have to maintain an illegal, impoverished existence on the fringes of urban society or go back to the rural poverty from which he came.

Rapid urbanization is a global trend, and in our lifetime we’ll have – for the first time ever in human history – more people on the planet living in cities than in the country.