Day 3 - Sunday morning (June 1st)
I had a very good deep sleep that first night in China, but when I woke up in the morning I was extremely dizzy; every time I opened my eyes, the room would spin - quite quickly. So after a few attempts with my eyes open, I eventually had to crawl on my hands and knees to the toilet. I can honestly say that I felt like “crap”.
I had never experienced that feeling - EVER, maybe it was like a hangover, I don’t know, but I proceeded to empty out from both ends for about the next 40 minutes with 2 times violent heaving and many bms the consistency of cow pies. (sorry for the details)
I went back to bed while Michael went out for a walk for an hour. When he came back I was still in bed so he went and had breakfast. When he came back again I was feeling a bit better, had a shower and we went downstairs together, sat and had some watermelon. I checked out the clothes shops - 1800 RMB’s for a men’s polo shirt - 2200 RMBs for a woman’s skirt - that’s over 300.00!! - so, no, I wouldn’t be getting another top or pair of pants from that hotel.
(I had still not taken any pictures... but that would change - beware!)
After the watermelon, I was feeling better yet and we packed up and left the luxurious Sofitel with a young man named Tian (Tien?) who had arranged a drive for us to Zhumadian - in a van - 2.5 hour’s drive. Ooh, it was nice and warm outside!
The van's back windows were tinted so all of my pics from road trips are pink unless I took them out the front window (I never sat in the front seat) ... oh well, I think you'll get the idea.
The drive was very interesting - we passed fields and fields of wheat, ripe for harvest. Some was in the process of being harvested, but most fields were untouched. I noticed along the drive that some people were doing this work by hand! - every square meter of land was used, non wasted - even between the highway and fenced in buildings - a 5 meter’s wide stip of land was used for farming and was being harvested.
I also noticed that often the roads between the fields were raised, perhaps 10 or more feet, as though the fields were cut out, but maybe the roads were built up, I don’t know. The farther we got from Zhengzhou, the bigger the fields got and the more machinery we saw - but still, the tractors were few and old looking.
There was a lot of manual labour involved in farming here and I know how hard that is - just with the garden we had when I was a child. It’s back breaking work. I put my hand on the windows of the air conditioned van we were driving in, they were warm - aah, how comforting.
We arrived at the hotel in Zhumadian - dropped our stuff off in a nice room and went to meet with some people from the university.
(sunrise view from our hotel room - we only saw this once - otherwise it was much hazier)
The room had a queen bed, a very large window (looking out from the side of the hotel to apartment buildings and other buildings under construction), a vanity desk, TV, a small table and two chairs. Simple but sufficient. It took me a couple days to realize that the bed was actually not that bad, it was softer than the hard flat chairs I’d been sitting on for sometimes 2 hours.
That evening Lippo, a teacher and Fred, a student who spoke very good English, took us out to a restaurant where I had some difficulty understanding that when I ordered something, it would come in a large quantity, on a very large plate and was meant for sharing. Oh. So I had a lot of fresh vegetables and some steamed cucumber with pieces that looked like gigantic white beans but tasted like water chesnuts (very delicious)...
The “view” from our room was intriguing because what I began to realize, was that I was seeing the life of the people who worked at the hotel. There was a very long tiled sink with 5 taps, outside a building which was attached to, and matching the style of our hotel. This building seemed to be the place of residence of the people who worked in the hotel. But at the floor level I think there was a kitchen.
I saw 2 women walking with a very large pan filled with food from the front of the building back to another entrance (with plastic flaps) nearest the outside sink. The plastic flaps help keep the heat out of the kitchen (hmmm). I saw some flames through the back window of that room.
I saw people with pots and other utensils come out to clean their items in the tiled sink. One day I saw two women at the sink, one in her pyjamas brushing her teeth, the other washing her hair using a large blue plastic bowl. Today I saw how a young woman brushed her teeth - she put the toothpaste in her mouth first, took a sip of water and then put her toothbrush in her mouth and proceeded to brush.
It seems that this was a small community of people travelling back and forth from their homes to their jobs across the yard. People knew each other and worked together. They stopped to talk, maybe to someone who was working outside; there was an older man cutting a piece of wood (a chair leg?) on a table saw. The saw blade must have been a very dull saw because it took a long time to cut that piece of wood - even if it had been hardwood.
At one point about 5 or 6 men gathered and watched a man welding an old wheel barrow. They stopped, chatted and had a smoke together.
Another time I saw a small, maybe 2 yr old child who was playing peek-a-boo at another plastic-flap door to another part of the kitchen. There didn’t seem to be just one person tending to this child - I saw no woman looking after him... everyone seemed to know him and there was an older man who came by and played for a moment with the child.
Another time, I saw a woman stopping to touch an older child, maybe 5 yrs old who was sitting on a motor bike in front of his dad (?). I took some videos.
Just now I saw four men squating down and eating outside - with their bowls of rice on the pavement. By the time I took a pic, one was at the sink washing his bowls. The sink is a busy place... seems these people are enjoying themselves; their work life is basically their life.
One fellow lives on top of the utility building on the left (large black pipes run from the hotel to this smaller building), I saw him doing up his pants beside his clothes line. Their are two huge fans on the roof.
So, the next morning I noticed that the cement “yard” between our hotel and the worker’s residence (and hotel kitchen) had been tidied up. The pipes were in piles and off to the side. I was surprised because all of the large pipes, pieces of metal, wood and what looked like construction garbage was old and rusted... like it had been laying there unattended for years. It was reassuring that yes, this place did get a bit of attention.
Right below our 7th floor window and to left was the “recycling depot” for the hotel. Garbage is dumped in a pile in the middle of the yard and sorted out. The larger of the two makeshift sheds contained cardboard, plastic bags and bottles, tin cans, etc. The other smaller shed was for “compost”.
However, it was not like our Canadian compost - this stuff had plastic bags, bamboo mats, bits of glass and other mysterious material all mixed in with the food waste.
Outside the sheds they piled larger oil cans, glass bottles plus a lot of other unrecognizable stuff. When all the recyclables were taken out of the pile in the centre of the yard, someone with a long-handled metal scrapper pushed the compost into the small shed - the door was an old piece of particle board. Today I saw a man in a motor wagon come and empty out the “compost bin” with a shovel. He also picked up the odd piece of junk with his bare hands. Yuck.