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Posts Tagged ‘countryside’

Countryside

I came with the group on this excursion to the countryside knowing I would be left alone for part of it. They are climbing a mountain up to a monastery. I climbed as far as the paved road went. Now I’m sitting on a large rock waiting for them to return. It’s quiet here, only occasional roosters crowing or dogs barking. Although the sky is gray, I think it’s not pollution, just a cloudy day. This seems to be corn country. Everywhere you look there are ears of corn drying and cornstalks piled on the ground or tied in sheaves. It’s very hilly here, going up this mountain and the land is terraced—makes a very attractive picture.

We left the apartment at 8:30 this morning and started driving out of the city. Before too long we stopped and picked up two men, who have a house in the country, but work in the city. That made 13 in the van, the eight of us in the group, Eva and Mr. Wang our driver, the two men whose house we would stop at and Eva’s dog.

Our first stop was at a village market. The village was quite small, but there were a lot of shops selling construction materials, again clustered together as I had seen in Shanghai. The goods in the market were also clustered together: vegetable stalls, cuts of meat spread on tables in the open, baked goods, dried chili peppers ready to be ground or sold whole. Several large covered areas had corn kernels set out to dry. These would be ground into meal; the corn cobs, also drying, used for fuel. We got some kind of an onion cake from a street vendor—very good.

Chilis for sale, whole or ground

Chilis for sale, whole or ground

As we drove further into the countryside we could see mountains in the distance. Xian is in a long, narrow valley between mountain ranges. We passed many houses with ears of corn draped on their roofs and on other flat surfaces. Also strung around telephone poles and tree trunks. I think this was a good harvest. We had to stop for two men who had a load of concrete dumped in the middle of the road. Mr. Wang got out and helped them shovel it to the side. We stopped again for a women who was sending a huge bag of rice home. The rice went in the back of the van, until we unloaded it at her house. She did not come with us. I don’t know if this was prearranged.

Corn, everywhere we looked

Corn, everywhere we looked

Finally we came to our stopping point. Mr. Wang maneuvered the van up a steep, narrow driveway. I hope I won’t be in it when he backs it down. We were never invited into the house but were welcomed into a back yard next to a large chicken yard. The hens were fenced in, the roosters allowed to roam around. This is real free range chicken. One of the men went to catch some of them. He put them into a bag, then weighed them. The underweight ones were put back. I don’t know where the others went, but later we saw blood on the pavement.

We were offered peanuts, cherry tomatoes, persimmons, which were wonderful, and we shared a bag of those onion cakes Eva bought from the vendor. Then we started walking. I tried my walking stick for the first time. I don’t know how much help it was . The road was very steep and I wasn’t able to keep up. I let them go ahead and I just took a lot of pictures of the farms and the landscape.

Our hosts

Our hosts

There are two little boys playing on the road near me. I am a big attraction for them. The smaller one has a stick between his legs and is playing horse. He keeps running back and forth. He came over and looked at the computer, but I don’t know what he understands. I’m sure I will be the talk of the village. I also have a cow and a small dog for company. Fortunately the larger dogs all seem to be tied up.

winter wheat

Plowing for the next crop: winter wheat

The sun came out and I got tired of sitting. The group caught up with me as I was walking back to the house where we parked. We ate lunch, truly al fresco, in a field next to a fish pond. We had pumpkin, which I would really call squash, sweet potatoes, rice congee, those onion breads and two other kinds of breads and some tofu with hot peppers. While we were waiting for the last course, noodles with soup, we started learning to play mah jong. I’ve always wanted to learn, but I realize it’s a lot like playing cards, so I don’t imagine I’ll be any good at it.

Another picnicing group fishing in our host's pond

Another picnicing group fishing in our host's pond

On our way back to town we had to wait for the concrete guys to shovel it out of the middle of the road again. I have no idea what they were doing. Then we stopped at the house of the woman whose rice we delivered. I’ve read about Chinese peasant homes but it’s shocking to see it. It was very small, essentially one small room with a chair, a cook stove connected to a large bed called a kang. Heat from cooking warms the room and the bed. That much I expected. What I didn’t expect was the corn. The room was filled with two large piles of corn with a path in between to get from the outside door to the door leading to the yard and the pig pen. The corn has to be shucked; they must spend all their free time doing it. We walked down a muddy, wet road to see the primary school. Each classroom had tables, benches, a teacher’s desk, and not much else.

Schoolroom

Schoolroom

The walking stick was not much use today. I didn’t need it when I had it with me and wanted it when I left it in the van. Although it’s very light it doesn’t fold up as much as i’d like. I’d like to be able to keep it in my pocket. Then it would be useful. When we started on the hike I walked on pavement and stopped when the pavement gave out, so it was not necessary. When we went to the school I would have liked to have it walking down that muddy, rutted road. But I thought we were only going into the woman’s house and left it in the van.

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