We just got back, Sunday night, from our travels in the countryside. We skipped class for a week and headed to the rural areas outside of our town (approximately an 11-hour train ride away, and yes, a good deal of that was spent on an overnight train without beds–see Michael’s earlier post). Our week was wonderful. We walked about the hills, shared meals with the people, enjoyed the beauty of creation around us and a much-needed break from the pollution of our city.

Here are a few scenes from our time.


Boxes of cheap beer were stacked high in the corner of the bare concrete room. We added an offering to the collection, our passkey and a sign of respect for the deceased. In the streets, toothless old women tipped dirty green bottles to their mouths before shoving them to the lips of passers-by. We pass through the crowded hall, down a maze of steps, into a tiny, dust-filled, people-crammed room. In the corner lies her body. Someone brushes the corpse rhythmically with a stick. “It’s to keep the flies away,” they say. Another lifts the kerchief covering her face. This girl is young; 30, perhaps? The press of the crowd is so great it’s hard to see what is happening in this matchstick box of a bedroom. Her husband thanks those pressed near to the head. At the woman’s feet, the wailing begins as friends and family shriek. We quietly shove our way out, not knowing how to take this onslaught of grief.

Later, the local doctor tells us the woman died of AIDS. It’s rampant in this mountainous area, our new friend says. People often share needles when injecting drugs and the infection is widespread.


We traipse through fields of carrots and potatoes, scrambling up stone walls and leaping over questionable trickles of irrigation or sewage (possibly both?) following our guide, a short but powerful farmer in knee-high gaiters. His home is a few bare concrete slabs of rooms, centered on an open courtyard where the chickens roam free and the pigs are cooped. We can leave our bags in his bedroom, he says. The room is dark and dank, the floors bare and the walls empty. Save for one bright spot: the bed cover is pristine white with purple flowers. On the wall next to the bed, the room’s sole decor is a magazine clipping of the very bed spread this farmer and his wife have at last managed to buy. I wonder how long they’ve dreamed of this, the one shining exception in this dim stable that is their home.


And, the photos. (All courtesy of Michael–he did an awesome job.)

If you’d like more details, please e-mail and we’d be glad to share.

4 Comments on “Travails”

  1. Holley says:

    Wow, Michael these pictures are incredible, and Beth I love your writing! Miss y’all a lot and glad we get to see a glimpse into your lives! We are praying for y’all.

  2. janfarns says:

    You have a great 1, 2 punch w/the words and the photos. I feel like I was there. Thank you.

  3. Ying says:

    Are these qiang people (according to their ethinic dresses)? Just curious.
    I enjoyed reading this post and the pics! You are well trained in Jschool.:)

  4. […] this time, to the countryside for some probable adventures. (See last year’s travels here.) I’m excited but, truthfully, more than a bit reluctant to leave my warm bed, my sweet […]

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