Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Visit to Barry's village

Barry was a student of Ruth's last year and Ruth and my brother, Bob, visited his home village last summer. This will be an account of our visit there last week.

After the rush to get Ruth packed up, we headed to the bus station. Several students and one teacher came to the station also so we had a great Chinese send-off. We soon left the city behind and were traveling through rural areas. At one of the stops Barry and I got off to purchase some food for supper. We were told that this area was famous for its chicken. We decided to get some and I helped pick. It looked quite a bit like the roasted chicken that is seen in American grocery stores. When we got on the bus and started to split up the meat Barry asked which of us would like the head. I hadn't even noticed the head was still attached! He was very surprised that neither of us wanted it as it is usually given to the eldest or most honored guest. He ate the head with gusto and Ruth and I enjoyed other parts.
We arrived after dark at the city where Barry's sister lives and is fairly close to the village. They had arranged for us to stay in a hotel.

The next morning we walked around the city and went to the school where Barry had gone to the equivalent of high school. The results of the national exam which is used for college admission was posted outside of the school on a huge banner. Quite a few people were looking over the results which include names and scores. The school is in a campus style and many of the students live in dorms. We happened to be walking between two of the main classroom buildings when a bell rang to signal the end of a class period. Evidently we were noticed because in a couple of minutes everyone was gathered in groups outside or at the windows of upper floors, gawking and waving. Finally one student was brave and cam over to talk with us. Then everyone came running over and we were in the middle of a huge crowd. We wound up talking to two English classes during the next period before we had to leave.

We took a taxi to the village arriving about 1:00. We met Barry's mom and younger sister who was home during the 12:00 to 2:30 break in the day, rather like siesta time. We then walked through the neighboring village where a market day was happening. We then walked back to Barry's house. It is built much like Dave's but has a dirt floor rather than cement. The courtyard is planted as a garden rather than the bare dirt. Barry's mom prepared soup and homemade noodles for our supper. In the evening we walked around visiting several of Barry's relatives. He also made a visit to his father's burial spot and brought photocopies of his school awards to be burned at the grave site. This was in the Taoist tradition.

When it was time for bed Ruth and I walked across the road to the Primary School where we were allowed to use their outhouse. Several of the teachers live on site and we were invited into the headmaster's office/living quarters where we visited with several teachers. Our sleeping arrangements were similar to our other village visit except the raised platform was big enough just for Ruth and me. Barry, his mom, and sister slept in the kitchen which also has a bed platform.

In the morning we had breakfast and then it was time to leave. We started in a taxi and shifted to a bus when we got to a larger area. We visited one more aunt in a town 30 or so miles down the road. As we traveled along I saw so many kinds of transportation. I noted donkey carts, bicycles, motor scooters, motorcycles, taxis, cars, and small, medium, and large trucks.

We eventually wound up at a city where we planned to take a train to Xian, our destination for the night. This is when we found we could take a speed train which Niel described in an earlier blog entry. It was so amazing to be riding in this very modern, sleek rocket train when I had been seeing donkey carts earlier in the day.

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