HD-22: the Quietest Weekend

Dec 9, 2019

Dear E.,

It made my day hearing back from you! I enjoyed very much reading your equally long update. As you suggested, we could try more frequent letters, and shorter ones probably 🙂

Indeed, it’s convenient that each of us can now focus on our journey and we won’t have to deal with “colocation” for a while. Otherwise, assuming you would be enthusiastic enough to join my frontier’s life, one immediate problem would be to source your coffee beans 🙂 . This Saturday I carried my 27-liter backpack and walked half an hour to the closest town to pick up things I bought online from two delivery stations, then dropped off a return item at the third one. It sounds inconveniently backward, right? Actually, not that bad. I could have asked a community member who has a car to help pick them up for me. This is usually the case for members who have been here long enough. But I chose to get the packages by myself, for a good reason to get out of my apartment and to have some exercise on a cold day. There was a sharp temperature drop yesterday and the daily high was merely 4 Celsius degree. 

Talking about inconvenience, one biggest issue is the lack of easy access to regular public transportation. Taxi is the only time-viable way to go to Chengdu, the mega city  on the east (40+ km to outskirt). Living in an ecovillage far from big cities would be challenging to anyone who needs lots of urban social life and convenience. Not me 🙂

Good news is that a D-train (~200km/hr) line will start operation end of this month, which will to the east connect to the railroad system of Greater Chengdu and to the west making the scenic rural part of west Sichuan province more accessible. 

(Pictures from a fresh post from Chongzhou Today’s (今日崇州) WeChat public site.)

The nearest station is about 19 minutes by car from Hua Dao. Yeah, the last mile connection is still a problem. I probably should get a bike.

In fact, we do have a few shared bikes in my building. They haven’t been used much and all seem to have minor issues. The possibility of fixing them teases me every time I see them:) . (And apparently, we are not using the elevator for now due to the low occupancy.)

You asked about what books I have been reading these days. I was a little shy to mention in the letter that I was chewing with a stuffed mouth: started with three books at about the same time! You know I don’t like not finishing a book but carrying a mental bookmark for years 🙂 . I will try my best not to let that happen, especially for these books:

A US friend of mine was very nice to help buy these two books from Amazon and brought them to me when he recently travelled to China for business. (He then used domestic shipment to send the books to me.) Cobb’s book only has printed versions. The Facilitating book’s kindle version is a bit expensive. So I got a used copy for a good price.

The way I see it now, the two books happen to represent two western approaches towards sustainability: science and spirituality. The renown scholar John B. Cobb (Wiki) finds his influence in Chinese ecovillage movement, for his thoughts on ecological civilization. Actually he came all the way to visit an ecovillage in Zhejiang province this past October,  despite being 93. I just finished first chapter of his reminiscences. When talking about his southern ancestors’ support to slavery, he wrote “My critique of my ancestors for acquiescing uncritically in a vicious system leads me to want to be less acquiescing in the equally vicious system now operative in my society. I do not want to be so easily socialized into the particular group-think that dominates our world.” Sounds refreshing?

The third book that I am reading is a historical literature about Chan Buddhism (Wiki). It is very different between studying buddhist philosophies and practicing buddhism as a religion. To me, the latter involves more practice of rituals and disciplines and is often associated with institutions. Buddhist philosophy, however, has been an important element in traditional Chinese culture and cross-influenced with Taoism and Confucianism, the two homegrown philosophies. Visible or not, it has its influence today in people’s worldview and daily life activities.  Ironically, my renewed interest in traditional Chinese philosophies owes gratitude to my studying sustainability with the western approach 🙂 . In the books I read, I can often spot references to Taoism, or recall similar points in Buddhism or Confucianism. 

华道(Hua Dao), 华(Hua) translates to China, Chinese tradition and culture, whilst 道(Dao) refers to the way, which represents nature and innovation. “Hua Dao” is therefore the pathway to inherit and innovate Chinese civilization. 

While I can now sincerely appreciate how the three traditional philosophies all take holistic views regarding universe, nature, society and communities, the philosophies themselves challenge me to be critical to their written forms, due to the limits of the authors and the eras, and to approach truth through living the philosophies inside out. I feel motivated that Hua Dao’s understanding of the role of Chinese culture is in line with mine.  

Transplanting onion seedlings. The fields are covered with plastic film to keep water in soil and control weeds. These temporary farm workers get RMB 70 (~$10) per person for 8 hours of work.

On my way to pick up packages in town, I was distracted by how meticulously the work of planting onions is. The vast onion farm (all covered with plastic film) is on the other side a road by Hua Dao’s farm, reminding me that our organic farm is still a small island of hope in the ocean of industrial agriculture.

The woman was open to my curious questions. These days, I have NOT been shy meeting strangers with friendly eye contact or greeting them ‘Nihao!’ (Hello!) if they are around Hua Dao. I once explained to you that one of the things I acutely felt missing, after just returning to China early last year, is the friendly eye contact with strangers as so common in US society. I seriously doubt it’s our cultural heritage/behavioral norm to avoid such natural friendly signal to strangers, as a way of respecting private space or whatsoever. Now I don’t think much about it but show my smile to my new neighbors anyway. For one thing, I am aware that it’s important to connect with a larger community. An ecovillage is not supposed to be an isolated paradise. It can never be. For another, hey, we have a tiny group of human beings at Hua Dao, can’t you see that every encountering with strangers is exciting? 🙂  Some older women already know me because I stopped by their yard to chat with them a couple times on my way home. People in this region are known for their sincere hospitality. I guess they are also curious about me, a new resident of Hua Dao who seemed to be quite outgoing and curious. But they didn’t try to save my face by saying that our organic crops “长不赢” (are outgrown by) crops of other farms. Auch! 

This weekend is by far the quietest one I spent here. Sister Tu is usually off on Saturday. So we need to cook by ourselves. Out of the 4 regular members, two are out of town. Just another member and I stayed at Hua Dao. The two of us cooked lunch together. In the evening, he went out for dinner. I made dinner for myself after coming back from the town. 

Oh, actually, I made dinner for myself AND two puppies. Since I tend to be the one who likes to stay in the village, Sister Tu trusts me with feeding dogs 🙂 . Honestly, I am not used to feeding hungry dogs. But I feel bad for them having no choice but to adopt human diet, more specifically, leftover from our largely vegan community kitchen.
Sister Tu has been checking their poop to make sure they are not sickened by food.  This is really the traditional way of raising domestic dogs before modern synthetic dog food was invented. I can eat my dog food, literally :-b . I vaguely remember that dogs should stay away from salty foods. After researching on “foods your dog should never eat”, I felt much relieved that our menu is largely safe. Still, we can increase plant protein and be more careful to pick out hot peppers generously used in local cuisine. 

So, this is my uneventful weekend. When the night falls and darkness blends everything into an expansive space, strangely, I don’t feel lonely, though I might think of you 🙂 . I like LOTS of space. 

Love with a hug,

Fan

(About Letters)

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