We Wake The Day

We wake; we wake the day,
the light rising in us like sun–
our breath a prayer brushing
against the feathers in our hands.
We stumble out into streets;
patterns of wire invented by strangers
are strung between eye and sky,
and we dance in two worlds,
inevitable as seasons in one,
exotic curiosities in the other
which rushes headlong down highways,
watches us from car windows, explains
us to its children in words
that no one could ever make
sense of. The image obscures
the vision, and we wonder
whether anyone will ever hear
our own names for the things
we do. Light dances in the body,
surrounds all living things–
even the stones sing
although their songs are infinitely
slower than the ones we learn
from trees. No human voice lasts
long enough to make such music sound.
Earth breath eddies between factories
and office buildings, caresses the surface
of our skin; we go to jobs, the boss
always watching the clock to see
that we’re on time. He tries to shut
out magic and hopes we’ll make
mistakes or disappear. We work
fast and steady and remember
each breath alters the composition
of the air. Change moves relentless,
the pattern unfolding despite their planning–
we’re always there–singing round dance
songs, remembering what supports
our life–impossible to ignore.

-by Gail Tremblay, in Reinventing the Enemy’s Language

Santa’s real workshop: the town in China that makes the world’s Christmas decorations

(via The Guardian)

Inside the ‘Christmas village’ of Yiwu, there’s no snow and no elves, just 600 factories that produce 60% of all the decorations in the world …

Christmas decorations being made at a factory in Yiwu city, Zhejiang province, China - 15 Dec 2014

[…] Christened “China’s Christmas village”, Yiwu is home to 600 factories that collectively churn out over 60% of all the world’s Christmas decorations and accessories, from glowing fibre-optic trees to felt Santa hats. The “elves” that staff these factories are mainly migrant labourers, working 12 hours a day for a maximum of £200 to £300 a month – and it turns out they’re not entirely sure what Christmas is.

“Maybe it’s like [Chinese] New Year for foreigners,” says 19-year-old Wei, a worker who came to Yiwu from rural Guizhou province this year, speaking to Chinese news agency Sina. Together with his father, he works long days in the red-splattered lair, taking polystyrene snowflakes, dipping them in a bath of glue, then putting them in a powder-coating machine until they turn red – and making 5,000 of the things every day.

In the process, the two of them end up dusted from head to toe in fine crimson powder. His dad wears a Santa hat (not for the festive spirit, he says, but to stop his hair from turning red) and they both get through at least 10 face masks a day, trying not to breathe in the dust. It’s a tiring job and they probably won’t do it again next year: once they’ve earned enough money for Wei to get married, they plan on returning home to Guizhou and hopefully never seeing a vat of red powder again.

Chinese factory worker in Yiwu christmas decoration sweatshop covered in red paint

Packaged up in plastic bags, their gleaming red snowflakes hang alongside a wealth of other festive paraphernalia across town in the Yiwu International Trade Market, aka China Commodity City, a 4m sq m wonder-world of plastic tat. It is a pound shop paradise, a sprawling trade show of everything in the world that you don’t need and yet may, at some irrational moment, feel compelled to buy. There are whole streets in the labyrinthine complex devoted to artificial flowers and inflatable toys, then come umbrellas and anoraks, plastic buckets and clocks. It is a heaving multistorey monument to global consumption, as if the contents of all the world’s landfill sites had been dug-up, re-formed and meticulously catalogued back into 62,000 booths. […]

Chinese factory worker in Yiwu christmas decoration sweatshop next to shelves of manufactured junk

(Source: Wainwright, Oliver. “Santa’s real workshop: the town in China that makes the world’s Christmas decorations”. The Guardian. 19 December 2014.)