Sunday, May 10, 2009

Elva's Day in a Chinese Country Village

Edith and Ross Brown had been invited to spend Saturday visiting the Chinese country village of one of their students. Parkson had taken the Browns to his village on two previous occasions and they had experienced many new and different aspects of Chinese culture. I was thrilled when I was invited to tag along on this third occasion.

We departed campus about 7:30 a.m. by taxi to the main bus station where we boarded our bus. The bus was full of people leaving the city for the May Day holiday. I was delighted to be able to sit at a window seat, because I loved looking at all the sights as we traveled from Xi’an out into the country. Once we got off the bus we had to walk a mile down a country road to reach his village. As he had been previously been directed to do by his mother, Parkson stopped at a small vegetable market on the way to buy some fresh cucumbers for our breakfast.

It was obvious when we arrived that they had been waiting for us, and they greeted us with open arms and hugs. The neighborhood children were especially excited to see the Browns and presented them with simple little gifts: rocks, shells and flowers. Gift giving is a big part of Chinese culture. We had also brought gifts. We gave the father a ball cap from America that had a logo of Commander and Chief. For his Mom we brought a new glass tea thermos, and for the children, candy and a game of jacks.

Parkson’s mother had most of the breakfast food ready so as soon as she prepared the cucumbers we sat down to eat. Chinese breakfast is very different from what we eat in America. We had corn porridge, shredded potatoes soaked in vinegar, roosted garlic, seasoned cucumbers, a mystery green vegetable and wonderful steamed buns. His father is a master at making steamed buns. I was hungry and anything mixed with hunger is delicious.

We visited with his family and neighbors for a while with Parkson acting as our interrupter. We were invited to tour his home as well as to visit and tour his older brother's new home. The homes are different than any house I have ever been in. They are constructed out of bricks plastered over on the outside with a coating of cement. Tiles cover the roof. The front doors are more like a gate with a small door inset in one of the large doors. You enter into an open courtyard with rooms on both sides and rooms in the back. The first room to the right was their living room. It had a couch, a TV and a warming bed. The warming bed is used in the winter for the entire family to sleep on. It has been constructed so a fire can be built under it.

The next room is a small kitchen. It was a simple room containing a wood cupboard, a long wooden shelf with storage under it. In the corner was a very large built-in pot where most of the cooking takes place. It is designed so you can build a fire under the pot. The dishes are also done in this big pot. There is no running water in her kitchen. There is a well on the other side of the court and she has to hand carry any water she uses.

Parkson’s brother arranged for an old van to drive us five miles to the next village where they were having a May Day Festival. I have never seen so many people in such a small space. I was very hard to take any pictures because someone was always in my space. People had come from all the surrounding villages to buy goods, listen to music and eat special food. It was a lot of fun. The only thing I bought was a Chinese ear cleaner.

When we returned we were treated to an outstanding program prepared by the neighbor children. I was just like the programs our grandchildren perform for us. One little boy was the MC, and he also sang a song. The girls had dressed up in their best dresses, and they sang and danced for us. We spent some time teaching them a little English. We gave them the jacks and they loved learning to play with them. They taught us to play a Chinese hopping game. I was surprised how well we could communicate with body language and only a few words .

Dinner was outstanding. (Chinese spaghetti.) We ate in the courtyard again. Parkson had told his Mother that we did not like hot spicy food so she served all the dishes separate, and we could put what we wanted over our lovely delicious home-made noodles. I could eat his mother's cooking every day. It was by far the best Chinese food I have eaten.

The sun was setting and the children were waiting to walk us to the bus so we said our reluctant good-byes to his family. I had had such a wonderful day I hated it to end, but my feet let me know it was time to rest. Ross bought ice cream for all the children. Their ice cream is kind of like a pop icicle. They stayed with us until the bus came. It was a day that will be etched in my memory forever.

1 comment:

Carol said...

Happy Mother's Day! Loved seeing and hearing about your special day in the country.