By Brenda Tremblay ~ Posted Thu, 07/10/2008 - 1:37pm
Restless sleep. Vivid dreams. Sometimes my stomach hurts. Other times, I get a floaty feeling like I'm seeing streets and faces through a fisheye lens.
On Saturday, I'm flying to Beijing to represent the U.S. as a member of the Rochester Oratorio Society in a Pre-Olympic Cultural Festival. I haven't left yet, but I'm already learning a lot about myself. For one thing, I'm learning that despite my hunger for adventure, ya know, I'm just a girl from a small town in Western New York.
I grew up in Albion, the seat of Orleans County, about forty miles west of the city of Rochester. Towering elms and three-story homes with Ionic columns line the canal town's streets. There used to be money there. Serious money. Back in the day, one historian told me, a local stone quarry sold for two million dollars.
When I was a kid, trains and trucks lumbered through every few minutes, it seemed, carrying tea and soup from the Lipton Soup plant and toys from the factory in the town next door. In college, I worked the graveyard shift at the Fisher-Price manufacturer, stapling yellow sunglasses to the faces of neon-colored stuffed Puffalump toys shipped from China. But during the 80's and 90's, the factories closed. Thousands lost jobs. Trains stopped coming. After awhile, the town simply paved over the rusted freight tracks bordering the old Lipton soup plant.
I'm no global economist, but I know that when Mattel bought Fisher-Price, major toy production shifted to China. Lipton soups are now made in Brampton, Ontario, and Unilever, the company that owns Lipton, recently consolidated its factories in China.
"With a global production base here and an operation centre in Shanghai, China has become an integral link of Unilever's global supply chain," said Patrick Cescau, Unilever's group chief executive, during his recent first trip to Asia.
The world is changing, and that change is no more evident than in the physical spaces we inhabit, on the streets of small towns dotting Western New York and on the streets I'll walk in Shanghai, where it's said that one-fourth of the world's construction cranes poke the sky. The Chinese city of Beijing has invested $22 billion dollars alone preparing for the Olympic games.
Next week, when I see the other side of the world, I'll quell my nerves, strip away the fisheye lens, and keep my eyes wide open. The world is changing, and I'll feel privileged to stand witness.