Sometimes we forget the beauty of simple things. I have been living Niuji, a small village north of Anhui province for a few months now. And there are times when I hate this place. Living condition can be rough here, and most people have very low to no education at all.
However, even though I feel this dislike sometimes, I try to force myself to see the good sides of this place as well. As this is a small village, everyone knows everyone. This can be negative, but also very positive. Whenever we feel like, we can just go and visit our neigbours. It is even ok, to just go over for a chat while they are having dinner. No one thinks this is an intrusion into their privacy. They are always very welcoming. I appreciate how much they have let me into their lifes. There still are a few people who treat me like a “stupid laowai (foreigner)”, but for the most part, people have accepted my presence and let me into their homes and lives.
What I love the most about living in Niuji simply is the peace here. I love the summers here (but am terrified of the winters). Whenever I am fad up with the behaviour of some village people here, my husband takes me on a ride on our electric motorbike.
Last weekend we went to the north of Niuji where my father-in-law’s sister has some land. Niuji is not just a place where people grow tobacco plants, but whatever the family wants to eat. I think there is nothing more satisfying than planting your own food. Our family has several fields in and around Niuji. The part we went to is pretty dry, so tobacco plants would never grow as good as needed to sell them for a high prize. That is why my family grow all kinds of vegetables there.
On our Sunday walk we discovered tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants (green and violet ones), Chinese cabbage (or better known as Pak Choi), green beans (the long ones and the shorter ones).
Another interesting thing about Niuji is, as it is so close to Bozhou, the city known as the center of Chinese medicine, many villagers plant all kinds of plants used to make Chinese medicine.
We find a whole field with plants which looked like little stars. I asked my husband what they are and what they are used for. I would never have guessed that those beautiful stars are actually the rest that is left after a peony opens. So it’s a normal peony plant. Or a Chinese tree peony mudan 牡丹 (which are apparently bigger than the once we have in Europe) to be exact. It is weird, because I remember we had peonies in our garden when I was younger, but I don’t remember those stars. In Chinese medicine just the root bark is used and called mudanpi 牡丹皮 in Chinese. For over 2000 years they have been using this part of the peony to clear heat or cool blood (terms in Chinese medicine).
I enjoy every single walk we take. It just reminds me how beautiful this place is. And no matter how uncomfortable I might feel some times, how hard it is to adapt to some living conditions and behaviour of some people, at the end of the day it is still one of the best experiences I have had in my life. And I should remind myself ever now and then…
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