So it’s probably been a week since my last post, and I have to admit that my previous strategy of trying to document everything I was doing has been a glorious failure. I guess the good news is that I’ve been so busy working and enjoying what I’m doing that I haven’t had time to write about any of it. So I’m going to play a quick game of catch up and then try to fill in some of the details as I get a chance.
I left off with my arrival in the island village on the Fuchun River. I think that must have been Tuesday, but to be honest I’m doing a lot of work for things back in Virginia, and working in two time zones that span 2 days has me a bit confused. Anyway, we spent the rest of the week on the island, and by now I feel quite at home here.
On Wednesday I went back to the clubhouse to meet the rest of the crew, and to do some planning work for an event this weekend at Qian Dao Lake. After a few hours of working with my new team we all went back to Nick’s sister’s house for lunch (this would be a daily ritual which has been awesome).
After lunch I did some exploring around the village with Song (the General) and one of my guide trainees Dong Chun. We poked around in several houses that were over 300 years old and had amazing woodwork and cool little interior courtyards, and checked out a massive tree that’s over 1000 years old.
After that little adventure it was time for the three of us to do some paddling! We circumnavigated the island in a repeat of a trip that Jason and I did back in 2009. This will also be one of the standard trips that Coastlines Kayak Club offers, so I want to be very familiar with it.
As we paddled along the coastline I was once again struck by the sharp contrast between the idyllic farming community on the island, and the massive rock mining and barging operations on the mainland shores of the river (river is “Jiang” in Chinese by the way – I’m starting to learn a few things.)
These gravel & stone operations put a ton of sediment into the river, and God only knows what else. It’s something Nick and I have talked about before, and I often find myself explaining the idea that everyone has a fundamental right to clean water. They seem to appreciate the principle, but not realize that it’s something that they don’t have. The water seems as clean as it’s ever been, so what’s the big deal?
And to tell you the truth, the river is beautiful. There is a small fleet of fishing boats on the island that bob off the South coast near a ferry landing. There are constantly pairs of fishermen patrolling the waters in traditional stand up canoes casting nets or collecting bobber lines. On the shoreline you see sheep and cows and people all grazing the lush fields. Yes, there is always someone collecting a basket of wild grasses and other plants to add to the dinner table. Actually, that’s where a lot of our food seems to come from… besides the chickens & ducks wandering around town of course.
After a great day on the water, James & Song take me into Fuyan for a night on the town. We swing by to pick up James’ wife Cary (both are Chinese by the way with far less easily pronounced Chinese names) and her sister. Cary speaks excellent English, and was an invaluable translator for me that night.
After yet another delicious meal, this time including a bowl of tiny baby shrimp, a few fish heads, and some as of yet unidentified but tasty green goo (I hope it’s not Soylent Green), we wandered down to a beautiful waterfront park where there were dozens of Chinese teens playing badminton. Quickly caving to the encouragement of my friends I jumped into a game for a few minutes in order to thoroughly dismiss any fears the Chinese may have of a burgeoning American badminton dynasty.
After thoroughly embarrassing myself (and exhausting the poor girl who was trying to return all my errant shots) we hiked up to see a beautiful temple and currency museum on top of a nearby mountain (Mountain as in Blue Ridge, not Rocky). With a beautiful view of the city it was the perfect way to wrap up a wonderful day back with old friends in an ancient world.
On the way back to the village Song actually let me drive the van, so I got to experience the thrill of the Chinese road first hand. Needless to say, we made it back alive… but it was exciting.