To The Countryside

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Last Sunday, we went to a rural village in Chengdu. Our Wednesday Night Lecture Series had (sort of) prepared us in subjects like The Environment And You!, but otherwise I had no idea what we were going to do.

A visit to the local market (what we Americans might call a Farmer’s Market, with the bonus of pigs’ heads dangling from small hooks and piles and piles of purpley-red organs) was a must. Our guide, Green, put us in groups of threes and entrusted each with ten yuan, thirty minutes, and the task of buying as many veggies as possible. Our contact in the village, she said, would add our leafy treasures to the lunch menu.

A hike was involved. Don’t get me wrong–I like hikes. I think they’re fabulous. But this hike was like going from zero to sixty, what with the ups and downs and treacherous muddy slopes. That I was wearing inappropriate hiking clothing (jeans, a button up, and a light sweater) definitely had a hand in dampening my enthusiasm.

We walked, often in single file, through orange trees. I hadn’t realized that I missed the burst of citrus on the tip of my tongue, the sweet scent the orange peels left on our skin, until then.

We passed a man weaving thin, spindly branches into brooms. We paused at a small plateau to gawk at a newly-built house, square and tiled and white. Another man dug sweet potatoes from the ground. No shovel–it might damage the crop. A hand pick or a hoe, perhaps.

An hour later, we arrived. We ducked into a darkened kitchen to observe the lunch-making, smiled at the two women inside. The fire was hot, and the one feeding branches into the stove was sweating. We all were. We ducked out (low doorways), and while others snacked on peanuts I went to the puppy. A cute, fluffy dog, to be sure. I didn’t have a rabies shot, so I watched carefully as another classmate slathered love on the wiggly furball. Wiggly furball in question:

Before we hiked back to the bus, some of us helped a farmer hoe for sweet potatoes. The rest of us picked off sharp brambles from our clothing. (Rice, oranges, and sweet potatoes were the crops of choice. Sweet potatoes are definitely easier to harvest than rice. The reason why there were so many orange trees, Green said, was because we were near a big Daoist gate. And oranges are supposed to grow there. She called the nearby oranges Oranges of Longevity.)

And yes, we did indeed have to cross a small lake on a sketchy plank-bridge. That did happen.

Before heading back to the university, we stopped for a walk through 参观黄龙古镇 (Huanglong Ancient City?). A lot of the women wore flower wreaths, purchased from small old ladies with bent backs and faces wrinkled from smiles. Green assured us that Huanglong is one of the most popular ancient cities to visit in China, and pointed out where the rivers met.

Our bus driver (heavy-handed with the horn) pushed us through traffic to get us back to our dormitory after 7PM. We had been out and about for nearly twelve hours.

Honestly, besides the beautiful scenery, I don’t think we saw much. The houses were spaced far apart, and the farmer and his wife and family ate in a separate room from us. I don’t think it occurred to our guide that we would want to ask the farmers questions. But the sky was blue (mostly) and the oranges were sweet. It was the sort of getaway I needed.

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