Below I've posted some excerpts of a blog written by my son, Simon and his friend, Wen who are volunteering at the LOHO Community project started by one of China's earliest and best-known environmental NGOs, Global Village. I've written about this project in some previous posts.
The entries below were posted October 17, 2010 on their blog which can be accessed at http://blog.sina.com.cn/dapingvillage:
We arrived at Da Ping Mountain on Wednesday, October 13th. Da Ping Mountain is located in SiChuan, two hours west of ChengDu.
It is very different from the city life style that we led in Beijing. The toilets are squatty potties, and showers are taken right outside the cubicles. -.- The food is good. (: So far we have been eating the same dishes, fresh vegetables cooked in various ways along with rice. These plain dishes contrast with the oily, MSG-filled food in Beijing, which turns out to be a nice healthy change of diet.
We were woken up by the hustling and bustling of the other volunteers - preparing breakfast for the sleepyheads. Walking out of our dorms to the smell of man tou's and fresh clean air (unlike Beijing's polluted weather), we were prepared for whatever the villagers had planned for us. We were also greeted by an American volunteer called Ted that had been at Da Ping Mountain for a week. After a filling and warm-welcomed breakfast, a retired volunteer called Lu Lao Shi guided us down to a field (what was it called??) to pick yams (called shan yao zi in Chinese). These yams are not what you think, as to my surprise, they were pea-sized yams. Crawling on our knees in the muddy earth and picking pea-sized yams was definitely a first. On top of that, dodging massive spider webs that would appear out of nowhere at eye-level was also on our minds (I saved my friend from a huge spider web). After doing that for the whole morning, Ted, Simon and I carried three bags full of yams back to the village (a bag per person... but of course Ted - with experience - had the fullest bag).
When we arrived at the village, lunch was served. Man, we were hungry from picking all 'em yams. After lunch, we had an opportunity to use our free time however we wished; we used that time to read, play solataire on our iPods, wander around and enjoy the scenery and natural environment. Then we had dinner and went to sleep.
Today Wang Pan (the station director) went with Ted and some others to the city at the bottom of the mountain, Tongji, so Wen and I slept in until 9 am. and decided we should probably wash some of our clothes. We brought out the plastic basins and detergent, hand washed everything then hung it out to dry. Ted warned us that is normally takes longer for clothes to dry up here which makes sense considering we're up in the clouds most of the time, but we've been lucky with the weather so far-clear skies during the day and sun enough for t-shirts. With weather like this during the day and mostly cloudy skies and mist in the afternoon and through night, our clothes took a day to dry.
Ted, looking to get some photos and explore the mountain, wanted to go for a hike and we, having nothing else to do and eager to get better aquainted with this moutain, decided to join him. We hiked up muddy paths, if you could call them paths-most of the paths have been washed over by rain and muddled by small landslides and mudslides, but we managed. A motif on this mountain, we noticed for the first time, is the vegetable that serves as a medicine called Hua Lian. It's grown in large patches of land and covered by black tarp as it prefers the shade, but covers a surprising percentage of the mountain and is grown all the way up to the highest peak. But between dodging spider webs woven in between cedars and slipping up muddy hills, we saw some great views and got a better idea of the layout of this huge mountain and it's agricultural inhabitants.
Lunch today consisted of fried rice, left-over xifan from breakfast and some pickled vegetables...also left-over from breakfast. But don't worry, Wen has a secret stash of cookies that we share. After lunch was down time where, again, we read, napped, talked etc. until it was time to get farming.
We walked down the mountain through a corn field to another "team" of houses and fields, of which there are a total of 11 on Daping. Here we planted rows and rows of vegetables that we don't know the name of but which will probably either feed the next wave of volunteers or go down to the city to be sold. What we planted weren't seeds, but plants in their ealy stages of growth-with stems and leaves about 6-10cm. tall and with which we buried the roots into the tilled soil. Once all of the vegetables were planted we watered them and by this time were both ready for dinner.
On our way back we noticed the sunset and how nice it was up there, with the hills rolling up all around us and the leaves starting to change color, and curtains of harvested corn hanging in front of every house. We walked through the corn field again to get back to the station where the office and dorms are and where we eat every day. Dinner was squash, sichuan style (spicy) which was really good actually, and the sichuan specialty Huiguorou which is basically steamed slices of pork fat that's not quite as tender as you'd expect, but good nonetheless. After dinner was more down time which Wen and I used to sit outside and talk, read, and talk some more. Then bed at around 10 pm, and by that time we're pretty dead. So far we have a good feeling about this place.