I was talking to one of my Chinese friends last week and she mentioned how she has grandparents who live in the countryside. I was really interested and told her I’d love to go and visit a Chinese village but I’ve never had the opportunity. I wasn’t inviting myself but she then told me that she would go back to her hometown next week and I could go with her.
On Tuesday after class we set off, from what she’d told me I was expecting us to get on a bus to Yantai and then we’d get off in the middle of nowhere and walk for however long before we got to this cute little village. I was wrong. Color (her English name) met me at the university gate with her ‘Auntie’ (may or may not be a blood relation). Then her stepbrother came to pick us up in the car. Ok, so we were driving, that was fine. But first we had to take a detour to the airport. This hadn’t been mentioned before and I was starting to worry we were flying to this village until Color told me her Mum had been on a business trip and we were picking her up.
After a few hours we arrived to the city of Yantai which I thought was only a small city but according to Wikipedia the population is still 6 million. We went for dinner where I got asked the usual questions – how long have you been here? Are you used to Chinese food? Can you use chopsticks? Then we went to Color’s home, a cozy, lovely decorated flat in Yantai – so far no countryside.
In the morning after breakfast we went on a wild goose chase trying to get Color a new ID card, we went to so many police stations I lost count. Then we stopped off at her Mum’s hardware shop, I was starting to think I’d never get to the village! But after lunch, me and Color took a bus to a little town which reminded me a lot of Cholchol. There was one main road and as it was just after dinnertime there wasn’t many people around except for this little puppy
and a man eating lunch in his tractor.
Color told me there were no buses to her village and her grandparents had no transport so she didn’t know how to get there. I told her we could hitchhike but she didn’t seem very keen on the idea so we waited for her grandad to find a neighbour to come and pick us up. In the meantime we sat on the side of the road and watched these women across the street. They arrived on bikes, each carrying their own little stool tied on the back of their bike. They sat down and chatted whilst eating sour cherries.
We got the to village and it was like everything I’d expected but the houses were closer to each other than I thought they’d be, it seems Chinese people prefer intimacy to privacy across the country. After meeting her grandparents who were incredibly adorable and not as fat as she’d said they were, we were sent to go and pick plums and cherries from some nearby trees.
Out of nowhere a herd of goats came scattering down from this hill, bleeting and nibbling away at the bits of rubbish. I jumped a bit as I thought they were a pack of dogs but then I relaxed when I saw they were just goats.
We climbed to the top of a small hill and could see the whole village, it has about 200 people living there. We could also see surrounding villages and the fields were green and yellow.
There’s something refreshing about being in the countryside, I could forget about all the worries I normally fret about in the city. My mind was clear and me and Color had a really nice long chat about well pretty much everything – life, death, our countries, our families. I feel that even though we’ve only met a couple of times being isolated on the hill and talking through all these things made us understand each other more. It was such a great experience and I felt like I could have been anywhere in the world, it didn’t feel like China at all, despite us talking in Chinese.
The colours, the air, the smells, the peace, the slow pace – this wasn’t the dirty, messy and crowded China I’d been exposed to before. Many of the fields were yellow because of 糜子, it sounds like maize so I called it maize but now I’ve checked and it’s actually corn millet…maize is easier for me to say and I think they’re similar, agriculturists feel free to correct me! We saw a basic combine harvester? cutting down the maize grains and other people helping out to work the land.
As we walked back down we saw some of the local people and Color told me all the relations – that lady was her Father’s younger brother’s wife but her grandparents don’t like her because she talks too much. She told me she didn’t like the gossiping ladies of the small village but she seemed to be up to date on who is who and who likes who!
When we got back to the house we helped wrap dumplings before being told to have a nap. I wasn’t tired but when a Chinese Grandad tells you to have an afternoon nap there’s no saying no. We woke up when Color’s Mum and brother arrived and it was soon time to eat. We crouched down around the tiny table on the tiny stools and ate roast duck, (black) duck eggs, cucumber in soy sauce and garlic, baked pork, sweet tomatoes and finally pork and red onion dumplings.
It was a truly amazing experience and even though I was only in the countryside for a few hours I enjoyed every minute and despite there being no flush, just a hole in the ground that led under the house, their toilet was much cleaner than others I’ve seen in China! I’m not sure if I’ll have another opportunity to go back but I have been invited so we’ll see if there’s time.