Ningxia Part 2: Village Comfort

Trip 2: Liujiamiao Village, Ningxia
Mid November 2007

Unlike my first trip to Zhangjiashu, the scenery this time round was completely different. No rain. No muddy slopes. No more greenery. Everything was brown. Dirt brown.

When I said there was no greenery in sight, I meant none at all. Not even green vegetables. For a dry village high up in the mountains, it is not possible for villagers to grow their own greens. Therefore, the only vegetables that they use here are root vegetables such as radishes and potatoes.

We visited the village of Liujiamiao and spent the night with the local families there. As foreign guests, we were very honoured to be invited to 3 dinners and 3 breakfasts during our time there. Every household insisted on having us over for a meal.

Handmade noodles are basic staples here. Freshly made in the little room that is at once their bedroom, kitchen and living room, we sat on the warm kang bed and watched as food was prepared in front us and served to us right there on the bed. That’s right, if you live here, this tiny room is all you get. Eat, sleep, cook, entertain your guests all in one multi-function room.

That night, after 3 dinners and some in-village entertainment over dancing and karaoke, we finally went to sleep inside one of the houses. Nothing was lacking in this village. My stomach was so full after 3 dinners that I couldn’t immediately sleep. The kang bed was in fact too warm that I had to take the blanket off every 5 minutes. The stove, which was next to the bed, was kept burning to keep the room heated so I could smell the charcoal burning throughout my sleep. And thank god I didn’t have to pee that night.

Now that’s another story. There are no toilets or bathrooms here. Or should I say, everywhere can be a toilet. When I asked one of the ladies to bring me to the toilet that evening, she brought me out to the open field next to the house and said, “Here. I’ll stand behind you to keep watch.” I looked out to the vast open land in front of me and the house behind, frantically trying to see if there’s a ditch or an elevated slope there. I was walking in circles.

“Stop walking any further. Do it here,” she said, wondering what the heck I was looking for. So there I was, in the middle of the open field under freezing conditions, answering nature’s call with the lady behind me.

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