“Roughing it” in China
Just got back from a week travelling in China. I had the opportunity to go to a fairly remote area of central Sichuan that you may recall was struck by a devastating earthquake in 2008. The education foundation I work for helped rebuild a school in this area so we took a group of students from our schools in Beijing & Shanghai to go and do some service projects there. As you can tell from my last post, I enjoy the Rugby Sevens alot so it took a pretty noble cause to get me to leave Hong Kong during this time.
Now I knew I was going to be “roughing” it. This was a no frills trip to bless a poorer region of China and I told myself I was ready for it. Hey, I have spent over 1300 hours travelling by train crisscrossing China before, mostly on what is known as “hard sleeper” (hard beds stacked 3 high with six to a compartment), I have traveled across Borneo trekking in the jungle and sleeping on bamboo. I know how to “rough” it.
But if I’m honest, that was in my 20’s and early 30’s. In the last few years I’ve gotten a little “squishy”. “Roughing it” these days pretty much means the outrage of staying in a hotel that doesn’t have room service.
I knew I was in trouble when one of the other adults on trip asked where my sleeping bag was.
“Excuse me…sleeping bag?” I asked.
“Yes, didn’t you see the e-mail that said we would need a sleeping bag on the trip”
Apparently I missed that memo.
So we had one night in the city of Chongqing before taking a three hour bus ride the next morning. I was assigned the corner section of floor and the local staff where we stayed was able to rustle up a couple of blankets for me so I didn’t freeze. But sleeping on the floor of a clean room with spotless toilet was a King’s Palace compared to what lay in store the next couple days.
We arrived the next day at the primary school and it really was something. The people of the village (as opposed to the Village People) even came out to greet us as it seemed that a busload of foreigners suddenly arriving was not normative in these parts. All the boys were assigned to a single room with about 9 or 10 handmade bunks all up against one another, I’m told, for additional support. So there we were that night, all sleeping on wood planks only a foot or two away from one another. Laying there I couldn’t help but envision myself on Walton’s Mountain and had to restrain myself from giving a “Nite John-Boy” to a gang of people for whom the cultural reference would all be but lost.
The toilets were the real challenge. The men’s loo was essentially 4 holes in the cement with no water flushing it away. Likewise for the urinal. Also there were no doors or walls (something we are hoping to address on subsequent trips) which for me was the real challenge. Having traveled throughout Asia for the last 20+ years I am used to less than ideal toilet situations, but they always at least offered a measure of privacy. I did not relish the thought of a student walking in on me while I was squatting over a hole doing “my business”.
|Even the sewer monster refused to visit…and no thats not water!|
|Our Policeman assigned to “protect” us.|
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