2 July 2005 2005 nian 7 yue 2 hao

Journal: On My Own

The Sanchuan area contains six towns and townships: Guanting, Zhongchuan, Xing'er, Gangou, Manping, and Qianhe. More than 80 administrative villages, encompassing almost 300 natural villages, lie under their jurisdiction. The area is home to a population of 75,000 people composed of seven nationalities including Monguor (Tu), Hui, Tibetan, Dongxiang, and Salar. Monguor are the main group, with a population of 45,000. The Monguor language belongs to the Mongolic branch of the Altaic language family...

The history and culture of Sanchuan stretch far into the past. The historic town Guanting (literally "officials' pavilion") lay on an important section of the southern route of the ancient Silk Road. In the east of Sanchuan lie Jieguanling ("ridge where officials are greeted") and Jietangshan ("mountain where Tang are greeted"), while in the west lie Linjin Ancient Ford and Jishi Grand Pass. Two sections of the ancient Tang-Tubo Road also passed through Sanchuan. In recent years, archaeological excavation has confirmed that chime stones and other cultural relics unearthed at the Lajia Village Ruins...belong to the Qijia culture, a find which has been ranked as one of the country's ten great archaeological discoveries.

— from The Revelry of Men and Gods by Ma Guangxing, Zhao Qingyang, and Xu Xiufu

Mr Zhu is currently in Canada attending a training course, and has left me to my own devices for a whole month. I haven't been especially busy, but I've dealt with a few matters. Most are things that Mr Zhu would handle if he was here, so this month has given me a chance to prove to myself that I'm not completely useless, and in a foreign country amid a foreign language that is a considerable achievement!

Mr Zhu is attending a course on human rights education run by a Canadian NGO. The work that we do at SDA really has nothing to do with human rights education, so I was quite surprised that the organisation not only accepted him but also approved his application for a bursary covering the costs of travel and attendence (I helped him fill in the application form, and apart from a positive spin it was basically accurate). But all the same, I'm sure that visiting Canada and meeting new people will be a good experience for Mr Zhu.

I considered going travelling while Mr Zhu was away, maybe to Xinjiang, but in the end that never happened. Tie Cheng also said she might come and visit me, since now she is just waiting at home until her post-graduate course begins next semester, but her parents didn't let her. "Too far away," they said.

As soon as Mr Zhu left, I hopped on a bus and headed for Guanting, partly because I had some things to do here but mainly because I just like living in Guanting more than I like living in Xining. People sometimes ask me if I feel anxious with nobody to keep me company, but in fact I like a bit of solitude, and if I feel lonely all I have to do is walk down the street and I can find people that I know, who are probably not too busy for a chat. The pace of life here is not very fast. Because I know more people in Guanting than in Xining, I feel less lonely here than in the city. Last night I was sitting in a little restaurant helping to peel garlic. A boy who came in and ordered a bowl of jiaozi turned out to be the cousin of a person I know.

Main Street of Guanting
The main street of Guanting.

My usual routine at the moment is to cook a simple stir fry for lunch and eat it with momo (bread), then in the evening go out and buy a bowl of noodles. In fact there are lots of local families who follow the same pattern: momo for lunch and noodles (usually mianpian) for dinner.

One of the matters I've been working on recently is a proposal for a women's health education project. Actually, I've been thinking about this idea for several months, but now I'm finally close to having a viable proposal worked out. In the process, I have spoken with a number of people ranging from the head of the provincial Women and Children's Health Center down to a doctor in a remote village. Apart from this project, there have also been several other issues which I have had to discuss with various people these last few weeks. It's been a test of how well my chinese fares in a serious, work-related situation, and I'm more or less satisfied with the outcome.

In my spare time I've been reading A Town Called Hibiscus by Gu Hua, a well-known novel satirising social reforms of the 1960s and the Cultural Revolution.

Mr Zhu will be back next week, and then I'll probably have to return to Xining.

I'm not sure weather you are online now,from the blogs I know it was published today,butI hope so cos we haven't contact each other for a long time.It seems that everything goes well,not only the local food but also your dayly routines.I don't quiet understand the meaning of "I haven't been especially busy',is that means you just do some dayly work?
Guanting seems like a very quiet town ,people there lived a pastoral life
02.07.2005 , 20:58

David (Zhao Liangliang?), it just means I haven't been very busy. There hasn't been much work to do. These few weeks, I'm ashamed to admit, I've spent more time reading books and writing emails than actually working.
06.07.2005 , 23:28

Have you seen the movie version of Hibiscus Town?...circa late 80's...cinematically not the greatest, but some scenes still stick in my mind such as the sexual harassement of a young man by a female party cadre.
11.07.2005 , 00:45

Not to put a negative spin on Mr. Zhu's trip to Canada for 'education and training' purposes, but I've heard some Chinese government officials (from the horses' mouth no less) and business people get to go on these training/education courses abroad and they use them as excuses for a free vacation.

The fact that authorities are cracking down on the education of human rights in China and it's presence online doesn't surprise me and makes this trip smell very fishy.

Am I totally off base in my thinking? Of course, I don't know Mr. Zhu personally so it'd be best to ask you, Todd.
Dezza [homepage]
19.07.2005 , 02:11

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