Well, the last couple of days have been busy visiting clan members scattered in other parts of the county. The day before yesterday (what day is it today?) we went down to another village- I can't for the life of me remember the name of the village- within Zhangshanying township, a bit further west of here, but lower down into the basin to visit a couple of households, yesterday down into the county town for another two.
It's not much fun for me, in some ways. Most of the people we've visited are people I've never met before, or at most only met at our wedding- and of course, there's no way I would remember any new face from then. This means, of course, that we have to go through all the meeting the laowai rubbish all over again- Does he speak Chinese? (why not ask me directly?) and so on. But it's been interesting, too.
Firstly, from an architectural point of view: I never would've guessed that another village only a couple of kilometres west and lower would exhibit a style of farmhouse distinct from our village. Maybe it's because the houses were older, although I don't think so, because the third was not much older than our house. The main house, along the northern wall of the courtyard as always, was built as one single house with all the rooms connected, not as two separate apartments, the eastern one with three rooms and the western with two, as they are in our village. Also, the rooms were no where near as deep, and in those rooms that had a kang, there was very little floor space. The kangs were built along the southern wall, as seems to be common in older houses (the same is true in our village and the two houses I saw out in Huailai), and the northern wall was lined with cabinets and chests, with only a couple of metres of open space between, just enough to move around.
Yeah, then there was the stove. The same coal stove with wetback that sits in our kitchen and heats our kang and radiator and boils water (very useful stove, that), they had sitting in front of their kang right in the centre. It's not a small stove, and takes up a fair portion of the centre of the room.
Also, instead of the entrance hall with kitchen opposite the door and rooms to the sides that we have in the main apartment of our main house, they had all the rooms in a row, with doorways connecting them. The room that had all the cooking facilities was huge, the room with the kang was quite small. Our kitchen is small, and the room with the kang quite large.
And of course, the first two houses being rather old, the doorways were low. Really low. So low Ba warned me before we entered. I spent much time ducking. I fully expected to come away with several new scars on my scalp, but I managed to escape the Village of Low Doorways unscathed.
Another interesting thing has been hearing the odd little bits of Ba's family history. For example, his uncle who we visited in the county town was in the army in the 1950s then became the head of one of the townships. Well, I haven't heard any stories that would be interesting to any outsider, it's just interesting for me to hear these little bits and pieces.Anyway, all the visits are done, and I'm glad. It was getting to be a bit tiring. I'm just sitting around the house doing as little as possible today. We're supposed to be heading back to Beijing tomorrow.