10/01/2013 - 10/01/2013 1 °C
My father grew up in rural Guizhou in a place near Qinglong country, where my grandma and great grandma (who is 97 years old!) still live.
Guizhou is a beautiful and very mountainous province. My grandma’s farm is surrounded by mountains and valleys, rice paddy terraces and small villages. It’s a landscape that hasn’t change for centuries, and I doubt that the lifestyle of the peasants who live here have changed that much either. Cultivating rice grains is back breaking work but it’s now helped by some machinery instead of animals.
Our first full day on the farm was an exercise for me in weaning off my iPhone addiction. I’d inadvertently left it back in Guiyang but there was plenty to keep me occupied. I hadn’t been back to visit in five years and my grandma now had a proper concrete house to live in, albeit with an outside pit toilet. We all sat huddled around the coal heater which doubled as a stove. At night time, everyone eats sunflower seeds and chatted – liaotian.
My Xiao Gugu (youngest auntie on my father’s side) made us some kind of glutinous rice noodles with green vegetables. The vegetables were AMAZING. So crisp! So crunchy! So tasty! And no wonder – they were freshly taken from the farm that morning. One of China’s big issues is food quality. Apparently 1 out of 10 meals is made from used cooking oil dumped into sewerage and reprocessed. At least I knew everything I ate on the farm wasn’t contaminated (even the chicken and pork were from their farm animals).
In the small village where my grandma lives, everyone knows everyone. The saying, “it takes a village to raise a child” is literally true here. There’s a complete open door policy for all neighbours and in the five days I was there, all the kids just stream in and out and go into everyone’s house and eat dinner with who they like. It was amazing for me to see. It takes the idea of helicopter parenting and slams it to the ground, KO style.
So I hung out a lot with Weiwei, 7, and Fangfang, 4. They’re the cutest little girls in the world and my dad’s youngest uncle’s daughter. They showed me around their hood, and we went to investigate all the farm animals and visit their friends. The one child policy doesn’t seem to apply in the countryside – most families had more than 1 kid.
Every day I’m hearing a mix of mandarin, Guizhou dialect, the local countryside dialect, and Hunan dialect. It’s making my head go mental because they all sound different.