Sunday, 13 August 2006

Rural China. A farm outside Wuhan City.

I must convey some important information I've learnt about China.

1. Under no circumstances should you have a cut throat shave in a Chinese barber shop. I've done this twice (Beijing and Chongqing) and both times were very painful (blunt blades) and I still had stubble remaining. 

2. The Yangtze is very brown coloured. I'm not sure why I thought it would be blueish but it isn't.

3. Under no circumstances should you queue for anything. Melees and queue jumping are the way. Particularly when getting on a bus. Old women and children should not be given preferential treatment and battered aside like anyone else. Survival of the fittest I'm afraid.

4. Road laws should be abused at will. In fact you'd look weird driving to the letter of the law here. Courtesy and patience should be avoided at all costs. Additionally, beep your horn like a stupid prick for no reason.

5. If you see a Weigouren (foreigner) it's perfectly acceptable to stare at them for ridiculously long periods. Even when the foreigner engages you in eye contact you don't need to look away. I either stick my tongue out, pull a stupid face or wave and smile. Kids, nee bother, but adults - haway man!

6. The Chinese wake up at the crack of dawn - never later than 0600, even at weekends. The only contradiction to this is my lass who can never get her lazy arse out of bed.

7. Always be noisy. In the car beep the horn. Use your mobile as a megaphone. Watch TV at the loudest volume possible. Sing karaoke so it can be heard in the next town. Talk to your friends so it appears you're fighting. Silence is your enemy.

8. Spit and smoke anywhere, anytime. The louder you can hawk up the phlegm the better.

9. Take toilet roll everywhere. There's no paper or water in Chinese toilets. This point deserves its own chapter. The bogs are simply ghastly. It's hard to believe Confucius came from here when they can't do toilets!

You simply squat over a trough while people watch. The troughs don't flush, the crap simply accumulates.

That all sounds a tad negative but I wish it didn't because I really like the place. I'm glad I have a double entry visa because I can't wait to come back. 

Chinese rice farm

We visited Fen's remote family farm four hours outside the oven-city of Wuhan. We had to be up at 0430 to catch all manners of transport. On arrival, the family lit fire crackers to welcome us as Chinese tradition dictates. What an entrance!

I always thought peanuts grew on trees. This caused a great deal of amusement in the village. My misguided belief prompted an expedition to a peanut field where I soon discovered that they grow underground. Here we are sorting them. Fresh peanuts are delicious.

Dumplings and chopsticks in the junkyard.

A walk through the rice paddies past a water buffalo. We watched skinny peasant farmers carrying big sacks of rice around. The intricacies of rice farming were explained and I concluded that these guys work very hard for very little. Every time I see a packet of rice in Tesco I'll think a little about how it came to be there.

A game of Majan. The Chinese are addicted to this and can play for hours at a time. On my first day here, Fen's Gran, cousin, sis-in-law and Mother played it for six hours straight! I must admit that having taken a little time to learn it, it's a great game (although I'm crap at it)! It's kinda like incomprehensible dominoes.

The toilet is a hole in the ground that you squat over. The shower is a plastic bowl of water. The water's pumped electrically from a well. It's very cool and tastes good. We then slept out in the open on the kitchen roof. Here's my bed. I slept like a baby and enjoyed the best day of the trip so far.

This was the real China I'd come to see - not a tourist's version of Beijing or Shanghai. I'd have loved to have stayed longer but we had to leave. What struck me most was not how little they have but how happy they were to have guests. They never grumbled and were terrific hosts. I really enjoyed the experience and was very grateful to Fen for making it happen. She can't believe it was my favourite thing so far!

This is Fen's parents house back in Wuhan City. You can pee in the house but if you need a 'no. 2' it's a walk to the communal crap house. This building consists of two troughs that are sectioned off into individual squatting areas by a chest height wall. However, at least two people can watch you doing your thing. Now, being the only blonde guy in Wuhan, and especially where Fen's parents live, I'm subject to much curiousity and staring. I had to have a liquid dump this morning (I can't shift the runs) under the scrutiny of two Chinamen. A very strange experience.

I also spent time gutting eels and smoking cigarettes (simultaneously) with Fen's Dad.

Yesterday was a massage followed by a hotpot meal at a famous Wuhan restaurant. Here, you're given raw meat and cook it yourself in a pot of boiling spicy liquid in the middle of the table. It was good but as usual too much was ordered. Asian folk seem to order way more than they'll eat in order to gain face. Either that or they have eyes bigger than their belliesToday I had a swim in Wuhan's East Lake.

Tomorrow I plan to extend my visa by 1 day since I entered from Mongolia at 2350 on the 23/7 and I leave for Japan at 0900 on the 22/8. That's 31 days (just) and apparently you can be 'detained' for 3-10 days for overstaying your visa. I wish the officials had waited 10 minutes before stamping my entry so I could avoid this hassle. If I can't extend, I'll have to go to Hong Kong prematurely to exit the country on time! Whatever happens I am not going to prison!

Next it's Huangshan Mountains in Anhui Province followed by Japan and Korea.

Keep living the dream.

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