To better understand Mainland China, people, cultures and realities I decided to go for a 2 day excursion to Dongguan, Zhejiang, population 100, no heat, no running water (well only) to get water, no toilets (public outhouse) and lots of farming and a bit of industry.
I departed Shanghai Railway station at 8:50am for Lanxi, Zhejiang. I thought I booked a first class seat but learned on the train that there is only one class, classy sitting isn’t required where I am going Also I was told this was the fast train but it seemed really slow to me as it stopped at every city on the way to Lanxi which was the last stop. I arrived into Lanxi at 3:00pm and my contact there, Joney Tong wasn’t there to meet me, Joney advised me by mobile phone that everyone drank too much wine and no one could pick me up so I should negotiate with a local taxi to drive me to Dongguan. I attempted to negotiate but wasn’t successful at her quoted price of 50 RMB, so she told me to wait and she would call a taxi driver she knew.
I decided to go for a walk, on my walk some stylish girls smiled at me and said hi in English and then giggled as they continued on their walk. I too continued on my walk and spotted a KFC, yes that stands for Kentucky Fried Chicken. Since living in Shanghai (18 months) I have only eaten one piece of KFC for the known reasons, but I was concerned about the next few days so I figured it would be best for me to eat a few pieces of something that resembled a Chicken so I bit the bullet and order 3 pieces and a small drink. In line I noticed 2 stylish girls ordering food… I was starting think this little town may have some funk. Not to be annoying I got my food and went upstairs to chow down on some greasy chicken.
During my meal Joney called me to tell me that a taxi driver would pick me up and bring me to Dongguan. I advised her that I was at the KFC and she told me to wait there for a taxi cab with a license plate A7952. I should look for the taxi in about 10 minutes. When Joney called I figured this was the ideal time finish my food and use the toilet as I was warned that I would have to use a public outhouse. So off I went to use the KFC toilet which was a hole in the ground, traditional Chinese toilet, the squat method. Oh well at least it was private and semi clean. During dropping the kids off at the pool, Joney called me and advised that the Taxi was outside. I advised her I would do my best to be right out.
When I got outside a gentlemen started waiving at me and got me into his taxi, so I got in without hesitation… On the drive I started to wonder if this was the taxi I should be in or if I was just hustled. Also on the drive in Lanxi I noticed another stylish guy and girl that had a punk/mode look to them, see below:
Lanxi Trends - Punk/Mode Look
In the taxi I called Joney to confirm that I was in the right taxi and she advised me it was the right taxi as she just spoke with the driver. During the trip we stopped to pick up another passenger on the side of the highway. After about 10 minutes he dropped the other passenger off and took 25 RMB as payment. We continued on our quest to Dongguan which was another 20 minute drive, Joney called back to find out where I was and said she would be standing on the side of the road waiting for me.
I had finally arrived to Dongguan after 7 hours of travel (which I was later advised would take 2.5 – 3 hours by car), Joney and I went for a walk down a partially paved road to visit her house she grew up in and see her fathers newer (older) house.
Old school kitchen
On the walk I asked if she could take a picture of me on the lane/alley that is frequently traveled by locals.
Between houses in the lane
We eventually arrived at a new home, Joney had told me that her uncle had just built a new house and they had a 100 people for lunch to celebrate, there were lots of left over’s and she asked if I was hungry. I declined as I had just eaten KFC and I didn’t recognize any of the food on the table besides the pale watermelon. A tradition when a new house is built you will invite people over for lunch and everyone will give money as a thank you and congratulations. I was told the usually donation is 100 – 200 RMB.
Lunch left overs
I was eager to get out and see more of the village so we went for a walk, during the walk I discovered that a majority of the farmers grew cotton as it was a profitable business. I was told they were paid 100 RMB per ton but I think that price seems way off.
Cotton Farmer, bush clean up
Cotton Pods on the ground
Close up of the cotton pod
Another popular industry in this village is Fresh Water Pearls, where pearls are harvested for 3 years before they are taken to market. They use plastic pop bottles to mark the strings of pearls.
Local Fresh Water Pearl harvest
Largest Pearl Harvest in Dongguan
There is always something cool to photograph in the village, check out these doors…
Old School Doors
Basic transportation in the village to and from school… notice how there is two kids on the bike with mom driving… yes I said two even though China has a one child policy… over the last 18 months I have meet many locals with multiple children.
Mom... how do I get to school?
Back to Joney’s father’s house and on the tour I noticed meat and fish that is stored from the ceiling on the stairway to the 2nd floor.
Where is the Meat or Fish?
Once you get past the meat and fish you arrive at the bedroom, no heat, no running water but thankfully there was lights… when I had to go pee late at night I was told to use a basin for the toilet which was covered by a plastic plate… the basin was full and was heavy.
This is where I slept
After the tour of the village, Joney advised that we should head back to her uncles for Dinner, it was now 6:00pm. When we arrived most people had already arrived and the drinks were flowing… yellow wine (orange/red in colour) made from Rice, Baijiu a strong White wine, Beer and Orange juice.
As a guest I brought Canadian Crown Royal Whiskey and Russian Vodka. These were shared among the locals but the favorite seemed to be the yellow wine, which I drank my fair share of. The drinks were drank out of little bowls not glasses. Everyone was celebrating, smiling, laughing, smoking and having a blast… I was often gam bei (cheers) and offered a cigarette, after declining many cigarettes I finally accepted (even though I don’t smoke), I placed it in between my ear and head as this is were most Chinese kept a cigarette in waiting.
Bottoms up... Cheers, Gam bei
I like this guys hat it says "Schwing"
For dinner there were around 30 people, Joney told me that dinner was a closer group of people who came to say congratulations, some traveled from Hangzhou and around Zhejiang. Joney referred to them as brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, grandpas, grandmas and second and third cousins. Everyone seems to be related in someway.
The food for dinner was beef, chicken (not the KFC kind), pork, lamb, dog (not hot dog), pigs stomach, cow stomach, pig intestine, pig leg, bamboo, vegetable, flat spring rolls, noodles and rice.
I tried most of everything but my favorites were vegetables, bamboo and noodles… Vegetarian style More photos from dinner celebrations.
Another gam bei... cheers
Grandma, Grandpa, and Grandson
After dinner it was bed time as there was no more action in the village. On the walk home I heard noise echoing from other households, so it sounds like there is lots of fun times in the village into the late hours… I decided to go to bed with my clothes on as it was freezing in my room and my change of clothes was in my bag which I left at Joney’s uncles house. At 3am I woke up and was tossing and turning until it was washroom time, that meant i needed to get up in the cold, leave my room and find the basin to relieve the pressure so I could return to sleep. Once back in bed I decided the bed was warm enough and I could remove a layer of clothing and return to sleep land.
The next morning I woke up at 7am, excited for my 2nd day of village life, Joney’s father mentioned that he had made porridge and that it was downstairs. That morning we got up and had tea, pickled vegetables and porridge (rice with water) with home made spicy sauce.
Dinning Room Seating - Breakfast
During breakfast I mentioned to Joney I wanted to go for another walk around the village, but before we could leave she had some duties to do. Joney wanted to help her dad with laundry, old fashion style, bucket, hose, bar of soap, and brush… This process looks extremely rough on clothing.
Clothes washing 101 - Village life
On our walk we saw lots of free range birds, walking around eating what ever they could find on the ground.
Chickens hanging in the Cotton bushes
Bird Life, we can go anywhere
During our walk we stopped by her uncles old house and they were cooking up a storm for lunch which is usually served around 11:00am. I was in mad love with his denim apron… and I want to add this to a trending report, notice the old mixed with the new and the hand stitched pocket. This guy is secretly a fan of fashion.
TRENDS - Denim Apron - This finish kicks Butt
This is an older kitchen and it was kept going by a full-time kiln helper, this woman’s job is to make sure the right amount of flame is in the kiln. Beside her are the bales of straw, hay that she uses to keep the flame alive.
Keeping the flame alive
I figured that I should give this a try:
Jeff attempting to stoke the Fire
Well at least I got everyone laughing… I had difficulty holding the tongs that were used to pick up the bales of straw… It was more difficult than it looked. Beside the oven area in the kitchen, there were chickens laying eggs, they even posed for a picture without budging.
Chicken and Egg life from the Kitchen
More views from the inside and outside the house:
The interior view of the house
More door LOve, I have always had a thing for doors and one year wanted to do a photo shot that just focused on doors.
My door fetish - LOve
When I got outside, I noticed a guy that I have seen around the village over the last 24 hours, and mentioned to the people in the house that I wanted to take a photo, I like the composition and character. Everyone laughed again. Before taking the photo I asked if it would be OK, and asked how to request a photo in Mandarin.
My life, my reality
When I turned around everyone was still laughing and wanted to see the photo. So I figured it was another ideal opportunity to take another photo. I also liked the character of the woman with the Blue hat.
Fun times in the Village
After all the fun it was time for lunch, hee-haw…
More food and wine - 11am Lunch
The food spread looked the same as the earlier days lunch and dinner with a few hot dish additions. But most dishes were served cold. Also take note of the little White bowls filled with Yellow Wine in front of everyone… I was shocked that everyone was drinking at 11am, but it seems ok to have a drink when you get up. I guess I need to chill a bit. After lunch it was time to go for another walk and explore some other streets that I never saw.
On my walk I found a gem of a house, with straw in front of it and clothes hung on bamboo sticks with tons of wear and character on the house…
Character - This is where I live
Well I was checking out the house a woman appeared and thought I knew her, we started talking to each other and she invited me in her house so she could see me better and figure out how we knew each other. Be warned I spoke English and she spoke the local dialect and we understood each other
Doorway - This is my house
I declined to go in for tea, as I didn’t want to be misleading or rude and Joney was laughing at our conversation. So I want across the pond and took more pictures, I liked the reflection and composition, wear and character.
The view from across the pond
More Pond and house views
As we continued on our walk there was one more house that just looked homey with the daily laundry hanging outside.
Well we were packing our bags and preparing the house for our departure, Joney was taking the pee bucket outside to pore into a larger ceramic pot, I asked Joney what was the bigger pee pot for? Joney advised the farmers use the urine for the vegetables
My conclusion after spending two days with the village people is that we (humans) are all the same with different needs. We all have skin, hair (or no hair), blood, veins, etc… as well as emotions, feelings and basic essentials such as family, friends, respect and lots of love.
I need to appreciate and give back even more… I need to add value to my life and the lives of others. I need to be honest with my family, friends and most of all myself.
Lots of changes for 2010, my birthday (feb 4th), and the year of the tiger. I need to be responsible for my future starting now. I ask everyone for forgiveness and appreciation of my thoughts, behaviors and attitudes.
Much Love and Laughter…