It’s Friday, let’s reminisce a bit about my time in Longzhou.
Kyle and I enjoyed taking long bus rides whenever we had a few hours of sunlight to enjoy after the noon heat let up. One of the most interesting places to visit, and my mother hated when I did, was the hydro-electric dam that was being built a few miles upstream.
It was about a 30-45 minute bike ride that passed some wonderful little sights. We would ride out the back gate of the school, and up the steep hill to the bridge that crossed the river. From there the road would slope gently downhill and we would build up speed as we passed the small tractors with their exposed motors spinning out black diesel smoke. Sometimes the farmers would try to race us, and we never passed up the opportunity.
When we passed the army base we would smile and wave with all the enthusiasm we could muster, until the guard on duty could no longer fight the urge to wave back. The soldiers always looked so young, like it was all part of some elaborate game. Then the low buildings of town would become fewer and further between as we left it and came to the sugar cane fields that surrounded Longzhou.
The fields were always full of farmers working on some chore or another. The harvest itself seemed to last a few months, and was marked by the large trucks that struggled under the weight of all the black and green canes. The farmers seemed perpetually bent over, as if they were always carrying some burden. Old women would pick the vegetables that bordered the field, and would squat down lower than I could manage.
Beyond the first set of fields was another small village. It’s homes were made of red bricks, and were low and unadorned, unlike the pastel buildings of Longzhou. The people here were clearly poorer than those who lived in the “city.” There was always a water buffalo or two tied to the front of the home, happily snacking on a stack of hay. They were as big as a truck, but never seemed capable of harm.
Finally we would come to the gravel road that led to the dam that was still being built. The first time we had arrived there a man had told us that we couldn’t enter the site without hard hats. After looking around for a few minutes, and finding none, he decided that maybe it would be ok if looked around without them. We locked our bikes together at the end of the road and started to cautiously walk out on to the dam.