Wednesday, February 13, 2008

To Henan and back

Well, I've been having trouble getting onto Blogger lately. I don't know if it's Chinese internet in general or just my connection. I found out that if I try long enough I can always eventually get on, though. Most of the time it's after I've been trying too long and I don't even want to blog anymore. Anyhoo, I got back from Kunming last week, spent the weekend vegging, and on Tuesday morning I got up bright and early to hop on the 6am bus to Henan. Why was I going to Henan? To visit Happy Guy in his hometown, of course! Not just his hometown, though. His homevillage. This place is called Zhang village. His family name is Zhang, along with 99% of the people in the village. At some point in history this village was named for the family that lived there. The people there now are all related at some point in the very distant past, but most of them don't claim to be related today. Anyway, I took the bus about three hours, just into the province north of here, got off at a place so small you can't buy a ticket to get there, you just have to tell the driver where you want off (another reason this trip was so interesting), and was met by Happy Guy's wife and sister. They drove me another 20 minutes or so to their village. I was told that the 13th (today) is Zhang Cheng's (Happy Guy's daughter's) birthday. It turns out it was yesterday (the 12th) so I arrived around 9:30 or 10 to a crowd of well over 100 people. Of course, I was the first foreigner ever to come to their village. It's a good thing I just got back from a month of language school, but it's a real pity that all the people in that village speak a Henan dialect and not standard Mandarin. I couldn't understand the majority of the people trying to talk to me, but Happy Guy has three sisters and they all live in the city so they all speak Mandarin. Between Happy Guy and his sisters (who I knew before this) there was always someone around to translate (from Chinese into Chinese), rescue me from neighbors who had too much rice wine in them, or just to help me feel at ease with so many people staring at me while I sit in a chair in the middle of the yard. Conversation topics were about what I expected: I'm tall, I have hair on my face and arms, my watch is shiny, what is my monthly salary, how much did my watch cost, the cost of my camera, do I know anyone in America who can fill a suitcase with these (relatively) cheap cameras and bring them to China, did I come to China to find a Chinese wife, do I want to meet the girl down the street, does America have chicken, does America have goats, does America have motorcycles, etc. It was a typical Chinese experience in that they were amazed that I could eat with chopsticks, wasn't afraid of the chickens and goats walking around the yard, knew to breath in and out, and all the other things that most of us would think are basically universal around the world. It was more enjoyable than the average China experience in that, compared to when people just come up and talk to me on the street, these people weren't talking to me just to practice English. They were just nice people chatting with the visitor.

I ended up staying overnight because Happy Guy tricked me. He told me to come on the early morning bus and then after dinner he'd take me to catch a bus home to Shiyan. After I got there he started talking about where I'd sleep and all this other stuff, but I was telling him that I hadn't planned on staying and didn't bring anything other than my camera and a book to read on the bus. Then he told me that there wouldn't be any more buses going towards Shiyan that day and that I should just stay and ride home with them the next day. Of course, what could I do but agree? It's not like I even knew where I was other than somewhere north of Shiyan in the next province. It was a lot of fun and I'm glad I stayed. As awesome as Chinese food is, it's even more awesome when you're in a village in the freezing cold. Meal time is when you get to fill yourself with hot food and tea and warm your hands on the bowls and cups in the process.

There's more to the story, but I'm tired and I just realized I haven't even gotten the pictures off my camera yet. I'm going to sleep off some of this chapped skin I got from the wind (in just one day!) and I'll post pictures and more stories tomorrow. Wan an! 晚安! Good night!

1 comment:

Jessica said...

So did you want to meet the girl down the street? You could impress her with your hairy arms and ability to breathe in and out as you walk! (A desirable trait I assure you.)