An account of day 6 - Written by Stefan.
Hey kids, Stefan ge ge here again (and no, ge ge isn’t some weird traditional food, for all you conspiracy theorists – it’s chinese for big brother).
It’s that time of the year again, which means more action, more weird traditional food and more weird traditional relatives – that’s right, I’m talking about …Christmas!
Just kidding (A.K.A “Trolled”). It was actually the 12 January, 2013, otherwise known as Day 6 (and as always, the truth changes everything.)
Santa is angry because it's not Christmas. Really, really angry. (Note the children.)
And on that extremely depressing note, I shall begin my recount of that weird and wacky day.
I woke to the blaringly loud and extremely stereotypical “cockle-doodle-doo” of a rooster’s waking call. This actually wouldn’t have been so bad (and I was so sleepy that I probably would’ve slept through it anyway) if I didn’t have an sudden, inexplicable urge to do a shit. I won’t delve into the perverse origins of my impulses here (unless you really want me to, in which case, you’re weird), although needless to say, I managed to track it down to some weird traditional food we had earlier – namely, ze er’gen.
It turns out Guizhou is famous for its food, because it is absolutely soaked with chilli. My body wasn’t used to processing that much of the famous spicy sustenance, and as such … well, you know what happens next.
Obviously a fabulous start to the day.
Moving on, the day’s schedule involved hiking, hiking, more hiking, and then praying. We were going to visit my Grandpa’s grave on a scenic plateau some 5km away from our current place of residence. The route to the grave took us through the streets of the nearby town, Sha zi lin (translation: Sandy Peak). It had been raining the day before, so due to the lack of paved roads, it was extremely muddy and dirty – so much so, that if you stayed in one place for too long, your boots (or sandals – I don’t discriminate against hippies) could become bogged down and immobile, almost like quicksand.
After a tiring 2 hours of hard yakka involving steep hill climbing and descents (not to mention goddamn motorcyclists spraying mud from the side of the road), we finally reached the gravesite. It turns out, a few residences had already begun to spring up around the area, obscuring parts of the picturesque scenic landscape. This was annoying, although we couldn’t really do anything about it.
Grandpa’s grave is fairly large, with engravings depicting descendants and relatives taking up a large portion of the plaque.
My name is on there somewhere – along with those of my parents, my sister, my aunts and uncles (on my father’s side), my father’s aunts and uncles, my aunts’ and uncles’ aunts and uncles and …
Well, you get the point.
Traditionally, it is expected of a family to provide currency for the dead in the afterlife. This currency comes in the form of paper money, which you burn and thus make accessible to the spirits of the dead. It is also extremely annoying to pry loose into single leaflets, one by one – but I give credit to where it’s due: it was all part of the experience.
Packaged with this experience was the lighting of the traditional firecrackers, which scares off evil spirits. They come in long strips with gunpowder capsules strewn along the length, which isn’t so enjoyable for the designated lighter due to one major design flaw: the wick of this enormously long firecracker was around the length of half of your little finger. The lighter of this beast receives approximately 2.31 seconds to escape to a place away from the action, whereupon a huge cacophony of sparks, sharp cracks and other misc. explosions ensues.
How do I know this, you ask? On that fateful day, I was to be the designated lighter.
And I have lived, my friends, to tell the tale. To be honest, what actually happened may not have been as dramatic as I’ve made it out to be. As I mentioned earlier, the truth hurts.
"Wh-wh-what do you mean f-f-firecrackers aren't dramatic?"*sniff*
After this, we resumed our hiking journey to visit some more relatives. This time, we were trudging through less-travelled roads so blissfully, the mud was not as churned up as it was through the town streets (nor were there any goddamn motorcyclists!).
Upon arriving at our relative’s house we were invited to have lunch which was funnily enough, already prepared for us. I say “funnily” enough because there was no way for them to know of our coming, as they, like most country residents, were not proud owners of a cellphone.
Odd happenings aside, after our meal I embarked on yet another hiking journey to the grave – and no, I don’t mean that metaphorically - even though my legs really were killing me. This time, my mother, sister and grandma (who is 77 and still in great shape!) decided not to accompany my father and I (and some other relatives) on the journey, and thus, we trekked the way in relative silence.
All the graves were situated on beautiful scenic spots overlooking a vast expanse of the countryside. Altogether, we visited a further 4 graves (for reference, they were those of my great-great aunt, grandpa’s brother, great-aunt’s husband and a grave which I can’t clearly recall the owner). One of these graves differed significantly from the other three, as there was a distinct lack of inscriptions and decrease of size. My dad told me this was due to the unaffordable costs of even simply marking the grave – farming being a lousy way to generate money (rather than food) and our relatives being farmers meant that they were unable to pay for the costs of the grave service. It was because of this that I was unable to discern the owner of the grave. However, we performed the customary rites all the same, and as thus honoured the dead in the traditional Chinese style.
After all of this, I was feeling pretty knackered. We proceeded to journey to the nearby highway, where a car would come pick us up to take us back to Grandma’s house (it was getting pretty dark by then, 6:30).
Have I ever mentioned my frequent lapses into dream states? No? Well, long story short, I had another one … for the next 3 hours. Again. Seriously, I can’t remember anything that may have happened in that span of time after our hike. In an effort to satisfy the disappointments of you readers (guys, I’m sorry), I have provided a smiling cat that should serve as eye candy and make up for my recounting skills.
And on that exquisitely joyful note, I end our blog post for day 6. Thanks for reading.
P.S By the way, the title was misleading. +1 for false advertising.