During my New Year holidays I took the chance to return to the place where I taught English for a few months four years ago. The little town where I taught is called Qijiang, and it is an hour's drive away from the big city of Chongqing, which is well known throughout China.
Coming back to Chongqing after four years, I had a chance to witness the pace of China's development first hand. I had the feeling that the city has changed a lot since the last time I was there, even though four years is not such a long period of time. There are noticeably a lot of new high-rises and less old, run-down buildings. Although the city still has some shabby areas, everything somehow looks newer and smarter, especially in the center. It is hard to know how much of it is just down to my perception, but I saw some things which were definitely not there four years ago: there is an ultra-modern monorail which crosses the center of the city, and I also visited a new multi-storey building on the Yangtze river (shown in the photo) built in a traditional style, full of fancy shops and restaurants. Of course, for many ordinary people life has not changed a great deal: the local Esperantist who found me the teaching job four years ago still lives in a cramped flat in an old and run down apartment block on the city's outskirts.
I had the same feeling when I visited Qijiang, the town where I actually taught English: even though it is hard to put my finger on why, I had the definite feeling that the place had changed and developed considerably in just four years. There was a brand new modern supermarket, which didn't exist when I lived there, and the road outside the school where I taught now has cement on it, while four years ago it didn't. When I went out in the evening, I came across a huge new night club which didn't exist the last time I was there. Of course, living conditions are still quite simple for many of the people, as I witnessed when I visited the home of a retired school teacher who used to know Esperanto many decades ago, although he appeared to have forgotten it completely.
I have read that Chongqing has been showered with money by the central government in the last years, and it has developed faster than most other places, becoming the richest city in Western China. The pace of development is probably not as fast in other regions. Also, it must be remembered that life in the villages and the rural areas remains extremely simple.
The one thing development has not brought these places is a big influx of foreigners. Even in such a big city as Chongqing, foreigners remain quite rare, although I did see a few in the center.