(To read Part One of my Village Trip Journal click here.)
Journal Day Two – My first full day in Weijialou
Breakfast this morning consisted of “you tiao” (which literally means oil stick) and Future Cola (since the town didn’t have Coke) at a local restaurant. “You tiao” is a breakfast favorite of mine in Xian (Where I live), so it wasn’t new to me, but for those unfamiliar, it is a deep fried piece of dough which takes about a year off your life and is worth it!
After breakfast we headed back to my friend’s home and the procession of locals, friends and family continued as people wanted to get a look at a “foreigner”. For many of them it was the first time they met someone that wasn’t Chinese. To be honest I feel bad because I don’t look like much like a foreigner. If it were my wife, with her white(r) skin, blonde hair and blue eyes, maybe it would have been more of a treat… as opposed to me, who looks like everything from a Native American to an Arab (depending on where I am when someone plays the “Guess what ethnicity Matt is” game.)
For lunch we are having mutton, noodles, chicken, and cucumber. It all tastes good, but my stomach is starting to not feel very good. We actually had mutton for dinner the night before also, but I forgot to mention it… don’t hate me.
On Fridays in Weijialou (the city we’re staying in) all the villagers from the surrounding area come for a “Market day” and sell their stuff. Well it was Friday so after lunch we had the opportunity to walk through “Market Day”. And it was quite interesting to take in as there was; a stack of cow parts, fireworks, candy and shoe inserts all within maybe 25 feet of each other. It was crowded and I loved each second of walking through it.
Afterwards Lawrence and I climbed a hill that sits behind the town to get a look at the area. It was cool to get to get a “bird’s eye view” of the town and the surrounding scenery, but coming down the hill I started to really not feel well. Little did I know at the time that I would be sick for the next twelve hours or so and that this would be as much hiking/climbing as we would do on this trip. Sad face.
I’ve never mastered the “squatty potty”, but then again, I’ve never needed too. Well that all changed as the squatty was all that this town offered me and I was faced with some very difficult stomach issues. Although my time dealing with throwing up and diarrhea (the hardest word to spell in the English language, by the way) would not produce the kind of stories to tell my grandkids about, it did offer one cool fact. I threw up at least twice off a fifteen foot wall. Kinda awesome and pretty unique, I’ll take it.
I will also confess that I wasn’t all that confident in my squatty skills for much of the time I had to use it. I would awkwardly hunch over and turn around to make sure I hadn’t soiled my pants in the process. OK, sorry… that’s all I will say about my bathroom issues. Hope I haven’t lost too many readers.
That day of sickness I can honestly say was the day I most missed my wife and kids in my life. Lying there so far away from them in pain and discomfort was difficult for me. I called my wife and had to face the facts about my situation, if I didn’t get better by the morning I would need to consider coming home, which would be a HUGE bummer since I planned on staying a couple more days.
I need to say though that Lawrence took super good care of me and that was a huge comfort. I could honestly tell that he cared deeply for me. And I was getting used to the bed, which was good. Each time I came back from the squatty and the bitter cold outside, the bed’s warmth greeted me as I climbed in.
Falling asleep I didn’t know what the night or my body would have in store for me. With uncertainty about the next day, I feel asleep.
Journal Day Three - Wedding
I experienced two amazing things that could be simply explained away, or not. The first was this: I woke up from having been violently sick to feeling really good. The quick turnaround was unexpected, but much welcomed. The second thing I thought was amazing was this: I decided that I would not eat anymore Chinese food on my trip so that I could avoid more sickness and prolong my time with my friend. For the next few days I would only eat some candies that I had brought with me for the kids, sunflower seeds and a few bites of some chicken/beef… what was amazing was, not once was I hungry. I was provided for… again, I guess you could explain this, but for me it was more than that.
Since my health was doing well, my friend and I continued on with the plans for the trip, (which were constantly evolving) and for this day, that included us going to see a wedding in a nearby village.
While we were along the way to the home where the wedding celebration would take place we passed the wedding party on the side of the mountain on a dirt path. In front of them there were about 4 people playing instruments and others were lighting off fireworks (similar music and fireworks as the ones we heard when we first arrived in town).
What happened next was so interesting to me. The bride and groom have to fight their way to the bride’s home while there friends and relatives try to hold them back. They were tackling them to the ground, holding them down, picking them up, all in the name of a good fun time. It was so interesting to watch the bride and groom getting picked on by literally everyone around them… I just took video.
After they hiked and fought their way back to their home, (about a mile or so) the celebration began. What my friend informed me of was that his Dad was actually the one who was the “Matchmaker” for this wedding. Which I don’t fully understand, but know it to be a big deal and important in Chinese culture. Because he was responsible for bringing the two together he was honored with the head of a pig, some wine, and some cigarettes (not bad for an honest day’s work).
Here at the wedding celebration I instantly became a hit as the first visiting foreigner. Many people came up to me and shook hands with me. For much of the afternoon I would have 5-15 people crowded around me staring at me and asking questions. I enjoyed getting to meet them and was honored. Again, to be honest I don’t look much different than Chinese people (especially those out west) so I don’t think that I was as much of a tourist attraction as my wife would have been (with blonde hair and lighter skin). Hopefully they weren’t disappointed.
It was during these introductions that I noticed an old woman whose hands were cracked, swollen and black from years of hard labor. I can’t imagine how hard her life must have been, how hard she must have had to work to survive. It was humbling. But in these areas you can tell that this was common life for much of the older generation.
Lawrence informed me during this time that though the skies were blue now, they hadn’t always been. Only five short years ago they were black. What he told me was that many people ran their own oil refineries, but that they weren’t run very well. So as a result the skies turned black from the pollution. The government stepped in to shut them down and now the skies have become blue again. I was very grateful that they had, because it was wonderful to enjoy the wedding with clear blue skies. They served food to all the guests, played some music and then everyone went on their way.
I should also mention that Lawrence really wanted me to meet his Uncle. And although we couldn’t go to his Uncle’s Village, we did get to see him at the wedding. Lawrence introduced me and I was able to give him a gift I had brought for him. It was one of our goals for the trip to see him and I was glad to have had the opportunity to do it.
When we got back to the town we were staying in, we had a representative from the local school come visit us. One thing that developed to be part of this trip was Lawrence and my plan to get school supplies for some students, books for the school library as well as some gym equipment. Until this point I was a little worried because we weren’t sure how we were going to distribute the individual school supplies as well as making sure they got into the neediest students hands (as opposed to the rich or good students). It was our desire to help the poorest of the poor.
After spending a good couple hours sipping tea and eating sunflower seeds as we bonded, I felt very confident that this school representative knew our heart to help the poor and that he would do his best to get the supplies to them. He got my email address and I will send him my address, because he insisted that the students would want to write thank you letters. If they come, that will make me a very happy man.
I remember after he left I felt like I was on cloud nine, smiley and relieved that the supplies would go where needed. It felt like a great day with; the wedding, meeting Lawrence’s Uncle and school stuff taken care of. We only had one last task: visit Lawrence’s Grandma. Before bed I got some pictures with Lawrence’s family and the neighbors. They tried to make the neighbors wife take a picture with me and in perfect Chinese she said, “I don’t want to!”, as she fought off their attempts to force her to stand next to me for a picture. I was rejected, but luckily I didn’t take it too hard.
(Click here to read part three)