Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

Apr 12 2011

Stone village

For the first time on the trip, we were greeted by cold wind and rain after a nice hotel breakfast the next morning. Mr. Cai was waiting for us, no doubt wondering what we could possibly be up to in such weather, but he gamely drove us out towards the coast, past massive construction sites, half-finished resorts and an extremely long bridge that extended so far out into the mist the other end was invisible. Our destination was a fishing village where the women wore colorful scarves and generally ran the show. On the way we had to thread our way through a roadside funeral procession. Dank paper objects lay at the group’s feet.

The continued as we reached our destination, so we bought some cheap umbrellas. Chenbl and the others were intent on photographing the colorfully-scarved women, but I was just there to see what was what, so as they prowled a small fish market I holed up in a middle-aged fishmonger’s stall and chatted with him about the place. He said he used to work in Shanghai but moved to the Hui-an village to seek a simpler life. The buildings reminded me of Taiwanese fishing villages. Eventually I wandered over to the market and took some shots. The men whose photos I took seemed shocked and surprised, even pleased that I chose them as subjects; no doubt they were used to every single photographer that came by always zooming in on the women and their scarves.

I realized at one point that Chenbl and the girls were playing the role of people from Xiamen for Mr. Cai’s benefit. Whether this was planned or whether it just happened due to false assumptions I had no idea, but it didn’t matter; I’d been playing the part of a Westerner the whole trip. But I suspected that Chenbl was going to try to get away with paying local fares.

We drove through the rain and wind on roads lined with discarded stonework to a larger fish market, where I was yelled at several times for taking photos. It was lunchtime by now, and we drove a little ways towards another part of town to find a restaurant. We had just parked and were walking down the street when a curious sight greeted us; an electric pole, tied up to bundles of wires leading off in several directions, had been mounted by over a dozen workers. Apparently the pole, located in the center of the two main streets, had been hit by a truck and was about to collapse. It looked more like an elaborate circus act than a repair job, and most of the town had turned out to stare intently at the job, while I envisioned sprung electrical wires snapping through the crowd.

We had a mediocre lunch of beef noodles nearby, safely out of the reach of the wires. While we waited for the food, I trekked up the hill to take photos of a dog that had been spray painted pink, rolling around in the dust. The rain had stopped. Back at the restaurant, while the first few bowls contained actual meat, by the time I got mine it was just meat droppings and undercooked noodles. It seemed the restaurant never had more than three costumers at a time, as they only had three bowls. The rest of us used plastic bags.

After we finished, the pole had been successfully replaced. The town was saved! But something told me that such incidents weren’t all that uncommon. We walked up the street, taking pictures as we went, stopping at a construction site where a team of colorfully scarved women were making cement. They shot us dirty looks, picked up rocks, and threw them at us, just missing our feet. I suppose they knew they might get a reaction if they actually hit us, but after it happened a few times, the rocks getting closer and closer, I was wondering at the efficiency with which these people were driving away any potential tourist dollars. They others quickly retreated, but I took a few steps towards them, pointedly took out my notebook and wrote in it, glaring back at them as I did so. That’ll show ’em!

Back in Quanzhou, Mr. Cai dropped us off near an old temple complex with a pair of pagodas there were, say it with me, over a thousand years old. We strolled through the grounds past groups of old men concentrating on chess and qi-gong, and managed to catch a glimpse of some beautiful golden statues inside before a couple of smarmy, brusk monks shut the doors. “We’re closed! Go away! Shoo!” they told us. After reading a poster describing how Chinese President Hu Jin-tao had deigned to visit them, I understood; the likes of us could never compare to such an exalted presence. Back outside, I discovered that punks on electric scooters lose quite a bit of their punch without the sound of revving engines; all they could manage was a high-pitched whine.

We walked through more alleys are night fell. The alleys of Quanzhou are quite nice, interesting and dense. Dinner was had another little hole-in-the-wall place, where I had some good, if salty fried rice. The owner was from Quanzhou but his wife was from another province, it seemed from their accents. After dinner we walked along broad, tree-lined avenues back to the hotel, dodging electric scooters and passing empty lots of land that had surely been old neighborhoods before being razed; one building that looked as if it had been split down the middle by a giant axe.

posted by Poagao at 10:35 pm  

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