Amazing Kids! Magazine

Global Village – Rural Oasis

By Mindy Yang, Contributing Writer

Hurtling down a bumpy road, I was jammed in between my siblings in a taxi heading to the rural village of Pangazhuang, China, where my grandfather grew up. I was already growing doubtful of our wayward journey because the taxi driver had just recommended to us to not use our seatbelts. As I looked out the tinted windows, I saw how the road conformed to the landscape, defined by nature rather than by man. Behind us, one concrete bridge separated the rural oasis we were headed toward and the industrial, modern-day cities sprawled across China.

The next morning, my doubts took form. I woke up in a flat, bamboo-sheeted bed. It was 7 a.m., way too early by American standards, but all of my relatives were up already, breakfast had been cooked, and laundry had been hung.

I was definitely unprepared for the lifestyle differences in Pangezhuang. That day, I was to learn that running water only came two times a day – 6 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. I discovered that the toilet was actually a giant hole in the ground, and falling into it became a genuine fear at night. We walked everywhere through the dusty streets. The few concrete roads were filled with a strange sort of scooter bike instead of the normal car. By midday, I had been violated by the passing insects. The daily errands in Pangezhuang, China included washing laundry by hand, keeping the fire under the stove burning, and checking on the fields. I was used to an electric washer and dryer, a stove that started with a switch, and a grocery store.

I thought the next few days would be even worse but I discovered one of the best cultural aspects of Pangezhuang, the open market. It was only open a couple days a week. The streets became crowded with makeshift tents. The air had a mix of sweet pastries and fresh fruit. The vendors sold homegrown vegetables and crafts as well as Nike shoes and cell phone cases. There was the familiar buzzing of flies and children. It was a cross between the urban and rural life. I found myself blending in with the culture.

Over the days, I learned to adapt to the strange new ways. After a few days, the quirks of country life became the norm. I had even conformed to the strange accent.  It was a mix of Mandarin Chinese with an Irish accent. Everyone spoke in a singsong voice.

As there were no electric lights in the house, by 8:00pm there was almost nothing you could see or do. Instead of the usual late night studying and homework I could relax on the porch surrounded by family and friends. We often visited the nearby city and wave boarded. All the people had a laid-back attitude.

By the end of my week at Pangazhuang, I could easily wake up at six and continue with the daily chores. It felt more like time to think rather than hard work. I began to look past the initial façade and realize the innocence and tranquil life of the country.

My preconceptions of the rural life were proved completely wrong. I was so worried about the lack of plumbing and electronics. These minor details were far surpassed by the calm and simple day-to-day life. I found myself perfectly happy leaving behind all the advantages of a modern neighborhood. Just a few steps away from the city I could escape into a rural oasis.