two days in a row

October 6th, 2007

The weather seemed to be clearing up yesterday afternoon, but this morning we woke up to more rain, and quite heavy rain by northern Chinese standards, too. Which makes me wonder just when this corn is going to be got in. lzh and I have to leave tomorrow, so there’s not a lot more we can do to help, even with the weather clearing up (again) and apparently drying out this afternoon.

Of course, this brings us to the one really, really huge disadvantage of live in Yanqing in the not frozen months: Mud. The courtyard and house have been renovated, and there’s now a concrete path from the gate up the eastern side of the courtyard to the house, but still….

…And somebody at some level of government has decided that part of building the new socialist countryside means installing proper toilets in ever farmer’s courtyard, which is cool, but….

….twenty-odd sheep who walk the path between the sheep pen and the gate at least twice a day….

….and that’s the path that takes you to and from this flash new porcelain marvel, and that path has not been paved. It’s had bricks and gravel put down over most of its length, but those sheep….

….and the rain. It ain’t pretty getting to and from the toilet.

But the toilet is pretty, in a toilet kind of way. I’m not entirely sure who made the decision to install toilets in every farmer’s home, but lzh seems to think it was most likely the county government that did it, meaning every farmhouse in every village in all of Yanqing now has a flash new porcelain squatter. A porcelain squatter that can flush, too. Pretty cool, huh? It has a cistern buried next to the septic tank into which you pour five buckets of water, then when it’s time to flush you push down this pedal with your foot, and water shoots into the squatter. Well, you want to squat as far back as possible and aim directly for the hole, because the water pressure is not exactly high, but still, proper flush toilets in every farmhouse.

I’m not being sarcastic. This is actually a huge improvement for a lot of people. In our courtyard it’s only a small improvement because Ba had already built a concrete poopchute and put walls around it and a roof over the top, meaning provided you could handle the stench in the summer and the frozen pile that built up in the winter, it was almost as good as a porcelain squatter- and that was done two or three years ago. But in many other courtyards I’ve been to in this village, if you needed to take a leak, you’d head to the southwest corner of the courtyard and as soon as you were out of sight of everybody else, you watched very, very carefully where you stepped. So for a lot of people these new flushable porcelain squatters are a huge, huge improvement in both convenience and hygiene.

Anyway, two days straight of rain, meaning two days straight of corn being left in the fields getting rained on. Flash new flushable porcelain squatters or not, this doesn’t look too good to me.  Still, there are sheep and apples and grapes and veges….. Which (apart from the sheep, obviously) are also due to be harvested sometime soon.

So for one reason or another I’ve gotten off corn picking duty this year. And that is irritating because this is the first year it has been assumed that I (weather and health permitting) would join in the harvest. In previous years I’ve only been asked to help with odd jobs around the courtyard, mostly just stuff where an extra pair of hands and set of muscles (even my pathetic muscles) could be useful, like shifting corn from the bengbengche into the courtyard.

Oh well, there’s not a lot we can do about it now. We have to head back to Beijing tomorrow. Back to work the day after tomorrow.

At least getting back to Beijing we can get a shower. Six days without a shower….

2 Responses to “two days in a row”

  1. Shannon Says:

    Could I talk with you about your work in Yanqing? I am an economic anthropologist working in Liaoning. Over the past few years, I had been living in a small village of 1400 amidst the farms. Specifically I’m interested in your experience of the Socialist New Countryside Campaign in Yanqing. Please email me.

  2. wangbo Says:

    Hi Shannon, sent you an email, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to help you much. I’ll do what I can, though.