Travel Writing Awards Entry
By Claire Said
Up to Chengdu and worked for 2 weeks on a school camp in Jiu Long which was affected by the earthquake. Here again evidence of humankinds amazing resilience in the face of devastation. Further, met some amazing people from all over China and the world who were also out there.
Rubble; polystyrene and board homes stretch in a corrugated iron roof forever; unoccupied while trenches are dug for sewerage. Tents: camouflage army, government issue blue, Red Cross white and plain old camping tents; makeshift tarpaulin homes and rubble.
Rubble; kiosks selling pampers and pickles; slaughtered meat and fresh vegetables; fried tofu and roasted duck; and buckle legged, hip swaying hawkers selling their wares from baskets dangling on either side of their shoulders off a bamboo pole; stepping over cracks; picking your way between the people and the rubble.
Buckled steel and brick constructed distillery sitting like some squat bug that has regurgitated its contents – baijiu (white drink) bottles arranged (per chance) like a modern work of art reflected in the water bleeding from the damaged irrigation system. And rubble.
Squadrons of dragonflies patrol the river; white crane-like birds play flirtatiously among the rushes; the river tumbles, seemingly oblivious to the pollution that overflows from her banks and the willows weep and wipe away the tears.
More rubble; sofas and solitary doors stunned witnesses to the destruction. Photos and wreathes to a generation of lost children (a pre-school that collapsed, killing all the children); remnants of burnt offerings to lost family and friends; clothes strewn as colourful reminders in green harvests of rice and corn in an attempt to discard the dead in the abundance of the fields.
A walk in the mountains: overhanging branches weighed down by pregnant pearapples (a hybrid, looks like an apple, texture and taste of a pear). Abundant displays of the power wrought by the quake: parts of the mountain, wrenched from tree roots, barricading the way; a crevice, deep and about 30 cms wide runs straight up a driveway, a pair of sneakers hopscotch on either side; the solitary chair surrounded by a wall-less room; dishes stacked amid the chaos; tables still bedecked with cloth at the restaurant; curtains billowing through windowless walls. Evidence of normalcy – for now – gone! These scenes somehow are more poignant than the overabundance of rubble.
Winding up the mountain: collapsed bridges and roads of concrete looking like a tumbled house of cards; the temple at the top reveals headless and limbless buddhas; nuns inviting me to lunch amid the rubble. Two months down the line and nature re-asserts and affirms life once more in the vegetation that grows abundantly in the new exposed soil and life continues…
Exhausting yet exhilarating and life affirming as these people who have lost so much give generously and with a smile.
Currently in Xi’an (terracotta warriors), waiting for the rain to stop…