Day 13 @EDE Class: Community issues, Dujiangyan

Sep 8, 2018.

From pseudo-community to chaos?

Early in the morning, we started to receive strange news in the WeChat group of the class. One student decided to drop out. I think she was at least disappointed to find out that the ecovillage idea doesn’t see veganism as a solution to environmental and social problems, as a devout vegan and buddhist as she believes. Another student claimed he will no longer participate in home group work assignment, because there is not enough personal time after class. And he would like to spend more time with his wife who came to visit. (Sounds fair) He also planned to eat out instead of joining the rest of the group for all three meals like before. A third student felt that he was wrongly criticized for having take-out BBQ meat late at night in our community’s kitchen.

We learned about the 4 stages of building community on Day 3. Many felt that we are entering the 2nd stage, chaos, from pseudo-community of first week.

Haichao, the head of organizers called a meeting. Personally I really think he did a great job communicating the situation and solution.

  • Delayed meal services. A regular volunteer who was previously in charge of kitchen had to take leave for 1 week. Temporary volunteers who stepped in weren’t familiar with kitchen process. The organizer will find new regular volunteers to take over. (This is a low budget and non-profit training course. We have to rely on volunteers for most of the operation. )
  • Hung out late at night and ate meat in vegetarian kitchen (?) . Well, a few people hung out together and they didn’t intend to make trouble. It was chilly outside at night so they stayed in the community kitchen. It wasn’t clear to all that meat eating is not ok anywhere in the training center. Now it is, not about any religion but being more ecological. (I thought it’s an unusual rule but I am ok with it since I am a vegan.)
  • Burden of home group assignment. Understood that students come here for study. Home group assignment is a way of community building, through collaboration and servicing others. The work should be limited to something light, such as taking care of the environment and helping in the kitchen and shouldn’t take up too much time.

There is an interesting point. People in the class are early adopters of ecovillage movement. These people tend to have strong personality. Hence it’s harder for them to form a cohesive community. Think of the different and numerous stakeholders you will have to deal with in a real ecovillage project, the community issues we are having now are really trivial.

Dujiangyan

In the afternoon, we visited Dujiangyan (Wiki), a two-thousand-year old irrigation system that is still in use, and an example of a good ecological design. It divides and channels water from Min River, a tributary of Yangtze River, to Chengdu plain,  instead of damming the water. It “irrigates about 5,300 sq kilometers of land in the region”, according to Wiki. We walked along a trail in mountains. At some part, it was quite steep with steps. Unfortunately, we didn’t walk far enough to see the peninsular that divides Min River.

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An old village featuring connected houses (photo by the author)
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A complex of temple nearby (photo by the author)
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An illustration of Dujiangyan (Image from Wikipedia)

People of the Day

Yuqing. Yuqing and I walked together on the trail to Dujiangyan. She is my second roommate. These days, we have been interacting with each other in and out of class and our dorm daily. I gradually learn more about her. Yuqing comes from Wuyishan , a mountainous city with 80% forest coverage and a rich heritage of religion and tea farming and culture.  She has been helping her family’s tea farm and business for about 14 years. Besides, she runs a consulting business that plans tourism development projects for local government clients. In recent two years, realizing that she needs to develop expertise, she has been taking workshops related to rural development and farming technologies. She is active in class, eager to learn from everyone’s experience. She talks loud and laughs a lot, making our team work fun. Amazingly, she also brushed up her English quickly. From the beginning, she didn’t speak English in class. Later she was brave enough to ask the teacher questions in English, despite that her English is broken sometimes.

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