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October 18th, 2000 · No Comments

Zhongshan to Yangshuo

Day 292

While writing postcards tonight, I tried to pinpoint what it was about China that is so unusual. I both love and hate it, the countryside is different and beautiful while at the same time primitive and dirty. I made a deal with myself, that if China conditions were so bad, I would ride a few days, then hop on a bus, plane or whatever and return to Hong Kong, then maybe fly to Thailand until the group caught up. Well out of our 4 nights so far, we have had more unacceptable accommodations than not. Yet, I’m not wanting to leave. Why is that?

Water BuffaloCuriosity is part of the answer. China has had such a turbulent past with the rise and fall (?) of leaders. The people have suffered so much and yet they are still here working day in and day out. They do so much work with so very little. The people in the fields are planting and harvesting by hand. They use water buffalo to help them with the heavy work. When the work is done, they walk their water buffalo down the street like we walk a dog. Sometimes the buffalo has a calf or maybe two and they tag along. It is quite a sight to see.

When the crops need water, they carry huge pails of water, one slung on each side of a yokeRice Thrasher and walk the water from the source to the plants. Using a long stemmed ladle, they water each plant, one by one. As it comes time to harvest, the crops are picked and put on lattice trays or bundles and carried to market. Rice is gathered first by picking the long reed like shafts, bundled and carried to a foot powered “machine” and thrashed until the rice comes off the top. Once again, all by hand.

persimmonsThe farms are made of many small crops, intertwined together on a hillside or along a river. The borders form interesting terraces in the landscape, reminding me of a patchwork quilt. A quilt that represents the food of life, rice paddies, persimmon trees, berries, nuts, potatoes, bok choy and tomatoes. I saw so much pride in the garden quilt, the rows straight and no brown leaves or weeds. It was another art form for the farmer, the pride and joy of his labor.

Yesterday, we cycled by groups of women washing their clothes in the river, today further upRice paddy mountain the road, the women had an “improved” location. Their river was replaced by a series of several concrete “pools”. I joked with Stephanie saying that now we know where the “laundry mat”, it was her turn to do the laundry.

It is hard to believe that I live in the same world as these women. I would never think of doing my laundry, at least on a full time basis in the river. Yet here they were, loaded down with a weeks’ worth of the family’s laundry, laughing and slapping their day away and enjoying themselves. I heard only joy in their sounds.

China is another country that appears to be “under construction”. The closer we got to themain transportation city today, the more building was going on. Some buildings are being replaced and others are brand new. Construction materials, mainly brick are lined up, ready and waiting to be mortared into place. That too, is done by hand without cement mixers. The mortar is carried on double yokes to where it needs to be. The process is slow and cumbersome, but this is the way it must be done.

Bus ride

Boat on the river

Tags: China