Experiencing China

'Experiencing China' is about ordinary life in China and the wealing and dealing of a Dutchman in the Middle Kingdom. Marc works for DuoArts Consultancy and the Empowerment Foundation, travelling between the Netherlands and China.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Travel West to Guizhou: the Context

It took me days to find a suitable flight to Guiyang, the capital city of Guizhou. I was about to embark on a mission for the Empowerment Foundation. Because of some kind of conference in the capital city Guiyang, it was difficult to get a (cheap) ticket. However, because of good connections, in China really important and called guanxi, I finally got two tickets (the other for the local representative of EF).

In the last week in China, just after the final exams, I wanted to make one final trip. Not that I've travelled a lot during the last five months, but it was time to escape the scorching heat of Beijing with temperatures rizing above 35°C (95°F). I also had been ill for two weeks, stomach problems, just those two weeks before the final exams, studying (and working) as long as my body could handle. Then three days of exams, which, surprisingly, went well. In short, I was fed up with 'dull' Beijing and needed some adventure to get that 'real China feeling'!

The real China feeling!

All reasons stated above were important. However, more important was that the Empowerment Foundation (EF) received its first large donation for one of our two projects in China and that I was eager to visit this project in Guizhou province. Guizhou lies in the south-west of China, a part I have never been able to visit yet and I was curious. Another important reason that I was able to meet the schools director in person and to provide him with the necessary financial and intellectual imput to build out his school and improve the quality of education. This is what EF wants to do: to empower disadvantages individuals and groups by providing them knowledge and money.

As said, I also invited our local representative, Tom Li, to accompany me and thus we together travelled to Baotian, a little village in Guizhou province where the school is situated...

By the way, if you would like to know more about the Empowerment Foundation, just send me an e-mail (duoarts@yahoo.com) or go to the Empowerment Foundation.

Monday, July 18, 2005

The Journey (South) West

There is a classic Chinese novel, called ‘The Journey West’. It’s about a monk who is traveling with three companions (a monkey, a pig and a warrior) to the West. During the journey they experience all kinds of adventures. It is one of the most popular stories in China, still told to children and, recently, a television program has been made about their adventures too.

I just packed my bags because within two days I will return home. Yes, my stay here has almost come to an end, but this end, like always when going to China, is the beginning of a return. The journey to the West in this sense gets some extra meaning, for I will be heading west as well. This just jumped into my head, but has little to do with what I want to write about. What I want to write about is that I also made a journey to China’s west, to be more specific, to Guizhou (southwest), where I was visiting a project for the Empowerment Foundation.

Well, I’ve been to some beautiful spots in China. Six years ago I walked in a minus 10 degrees (14°F) sandstorm in Shanxi Datong (near to Inner Mongolia). The city is known within China for its coal production. The climate was harsh and so was the life because of poverty, dangerous work in the coal mines, and pollution. Because of the coal production, everything was covered with coal dust, breathing was problematic sometimes and it was extremely dry, like a desert. I also have been to Shanghai, a dazzling city full of commercial activity and a enormous energy to make the city into Asia’s economic center. Along the Bund, where Shanghai’s economic strength before 1949 can be witnessed, you can see the Pudong area, China’s new economic miracle, build in the 1990’s. I also have been to villages in Shandong, where life doesn’t seem to have changed in the past centuries, but traveling to the county towns and the local capital Jinan, you witness economic growth at full speed, leaving a strange mix between the traditional rural life and modern building. The new rich boast with their newly acquired riches and are (in most cases) extremely arrogant, looking down to those who yet have failed to acquire wealth. However, the new rich still live a farmer’s life. Their new apartments might have more luxury, but still look like the messy and often dirty houses of the more poor. Last but not least, I have visited the Great Wall in winter. Especially in winter, I find the landscape at Beijing’s part of the Great Wall fascinating. It more or less resembles a moon landscape, rough and grotesque. You can imagine hordes of Mongolian warriors on their little horses, assembling to lounge a full spread attack on Chinese soil.

Guizhou (Baotian) 

These places still fascinate me, but because I’ve traveled more than once to these places (except for Shanghai), I’m getting used to it. My journey to Guizhou touched my deepest fascination for landscapes and people again. Guizhou is wet and green, subtropical. It harbors many of China’s officially recognized minorities, such as the Hui and Miao. Its landscape is mountainous and inaccessible. This is probably why the province still is so very beautiful. The further you penetrate the province, the more wild and untouched the landscape becomes and the more fascinating the people who life their. The next few contris will be dedicated to Guizhou.