29th 30th 31st 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th


8th 9th 10th 11th 12th 13th 14th 15th 16th 17th 18th 19th

The weather was due to turn for the worse within the next 24 hours, so again Jessie proposed that we moved forward the trip to visit her village. The weather had already turned for the worse, it was mainly cloudy throughout the day. Jessie arrived just as we were finishing breakfast and she told us that she had to change boats as some government official was visiting the area and all boats of a certain size had to be government boats. Instead we were to sail in a fairly open boat for the 75 minute trip to Jessie’s village. It was fairly warm but cloudy today, so it got quickly cold and we probably should have had more clothes with us.

The It was a pleasant and relaxing trip down the river. We'd sailed the first part during our last visit, and whilst still beautiful, the further down the river, the less spectacular the scenery became. Jessie navigated the boats owner onto the river bank - the boats on the river are fairly shallow so getting close wasn't an issue - and we jumped off and rushed passed the water buffalo grazing on the banks of the river (Jessie meant that they could see the difference between Chinese and foreigners – as they’d attacked an American Jessie had with her on her previous trip).

There was a 10 minute walk to Jessie's village, Ping Le, through very fertile country – many of the fields were being prepared for rice, with many people out in the fields with the water buffalo or manually working the fields. Jessie explained that most of the villagers owned one or more plots of land, and either worked the land themselves, which was the normal case, or paid somebody to work the land.

Twelve months earlier the whole area had been under water following torrential rain and the river rising significantly. Despite being ca. 1km from the river, Jessie’s village was impacted and some of the mud-built houses were washed away as water flooded most of the houses – many people having to flee to brick houses with first floors.

We visited the local school, which catered for the three neighbouring villages with children in kindergarten class and first to fourth classes. After that the children would go to school outside the village – away from home on Monday through Friday, the lucky of them having a grandparent with them! It is sad to say given China's comparative wealth, the school was in a very sorry state – there were no windows in the classrooms and the desks and blackboards were probably 30 years old. The children had schoolbooks, but learning, as in all Chinese schools, was by repetition – not just of what the teacher says, but also of what the teacher does! Lene was teacher in one of the English classes, the pupils repeating Lene’s words and her every movement.

We had bought a Chinese version of H.C. Andersons works which we gave to the school – we were shocked by the total lack of amenities at the school and were very surprised that a country that could spend so much money holding the Olympics had schools in this state in an area that is far from impoverished with a fertile agriculture and substantial revenues from tourism (in Yangshou).

The children loved the attention, many of them posing for pictures – although there was of course one clown who tried to attract as much attention as at all possible. The children seemed happy, just like other children of their own age. Jessie told them that it was important that they studied at school and worked hard to improve themselves.

Jessies’ parents had prepared an excellent lunch which we eat in their shop – they sell beer, cigarettes, candy and the like to the locals, whilst Jessie's mother sews sequins and pearls on material from which dresses will be sewn. After lunch we walked around the village, Jessie showing is the old wall that kept the Chinese mafia at bay when they went on plundering missions, the family temple (Jessie is related to the vast majority of the inhabitants of the village) and other stories from the village.

It is difficult to know how representative the village is compared to other Chinese villages - however the village was generally clean, there was a stage in front of the town hall and basketball pitches across from the town hall. Given the fertility of the surrounding countryside, I can only imagine that this is relatively well off village - well off based on the fact that everybody gets food - nobody in the village would be considered well off based on Western standards.

We spent ca. 4 hours at the village when we said our goodbyes and made our way back to the river. The boatman was sleeping on the boat – he’d taken a short trip down river to visit relatives whilst we’d visited the village. The clouds had thickened and it felt colder as we sailed back in the open boat - Yanmei practicing her English. On the way back one of the wings on the boats propeller “fell-off” and we drifted along the river whilst the boatman called another boat close by – the wonders of mobile phones. We anchored against the newly arrived boat whilst he changed the propeller – luckily for us he had a new propeller on the boat – and we could continue our journey.

After saying goodbye to Jessie, we rested and played badminton outside the hotel - loosing the shuttlecock up a tree! Steven and Lene took a trip around the local village and watched on as a number of workers were building a well.

After dinner Steven played pool with Daji, cutting his finger badly as his hand hit the edge of the table whilst trying to pot the black. The girls at the hotel wanted Steven to go to the hospital to have his finger stitched, however he didn’t at all fancy a visit to a Chinese hospital and decided to patch the figure up and use cut down off chopsticks to keep the finger straight – the cut was at the joint where you bend the finger, so it started bleeding each time Steven inadvertently bent his finger. By the time Steven had been patched up and Steven had explained how it happened to some of the guests, it was getting late. Steven's finger was throbbing, so he needed a couple of painkillers to help him sleep.

NEXT DAY (9th)