I'm back. Not that anybody missed me.
We spent the weekend up in the village. Apparently it was Easter. Didn't notice, as usual. Easter just kind of slips by barely noticed here.
Well, it was the usual weekend trip. We stuffed some winter clothes in my pack and got a taxi down to Deshengmen so we could get on a bus to Yanqing as early as possible. The quickest way to Deshengmen from here is to go straight down the Badaling Expressway, which is, of course, the road the bus takes up to Yanqing, so we got a good advance view of the traffic we'd face for the first part of the journey. Blocked up and moving so slow it makes a snail look speedy. Perfectly normal, in other words. We got to Deshengmen and found they'd separated the buses again. Half were going to Badaling, the other half direct to Yanqing. Usually this means trouble for me, but I managed to get on the bus unmolested and sat down and waited. Nobody was bothering me. I was starting to wonder if we'd somehow found ourselves in another dimension or some alternate universe when, just before the bus left, the conductor finally came up to us and politely asked lzh if she was with me and if we really wanted to go to Yanqing. One of these days I'm going to have to tell the conductor "对，她跟我一起，我是她的翻译" or something like that, but I think I'd wind up having to clean up the mess caused by the conductor's brain melting if I did that. After all, everybody knows all foreigners catching the 919 are tourists going to Badaling and it is a direct contravention of the laws of thermodynamics for any foreigner catching the 919 to speak Chinese or go somewhere other than Badaling. Well, I was relieved to discover we hadn't somehow been transported to an alternate universe, and it was good that the molestation was so mild and polite (instead of the usual Foreigner. Must. Get. On. The. Badaling. Bus. Now. Now! bullshit I usually get).
It was also good to see that the bus company is buying bigger buses with greater seating capacity.
Anyway, the bus left, we did the usual slow, crawl up the Badaling Expressway past Qinghe, then gradually the traffic got lighter until by the time we got to Changping town we were driving as if we were actually on an expressway.
The weather was beautiful on Saturday. Clean, clear air, blue sky with scattered clouds. Visibility was awesome. The bus from the county town out to the village takes State Highway 110, which skirts the mountains along the northern rim of the basin as they wind their way northwestwards in the direction of Zhangjiakou. On the way to the village we could clearly see the mountains on the southern rim of the basin looming blue and distant.
Well, the clouds weren't so scattered, really. They seemed to be gathered over the mountains, both those to the south and those to the north, while the sky over the basin was clear and blue. And the clouds were dark and threatening, and leant the mountains a foreboding, almost menacing air.
But that's ok, mountains are often rather moody.
To continue the strangeness of the buses: The conductor on the bus to the village actually understood me for the first time ever. I don't know how that happened. lzh was busy talking to a friend sitting a couple of rows back when the conductor came, so I had to do the talking. Situations like this I find it's just easier to play the dumb foreigner rather than have to fight my way through a thicket of racially-motivated stupidity only to have to mop melted brain off the bus floor and open the windows wide to clear the smoke out. But no, this time I said "Z village", the conductor looked at me funny, I repeated "Z village" and she said ok, swiped my card, and guessed that lzh must be going to the same place, swiped her card, and moved on.
Anyway, we got there safe and sound. That's always a small miracle. I really wish they'd hurry up and finish this new highway they're building and force all the trucks onto it. They're a bloody menace, roaring down the highway at top speed with no regard for anybody else on the road. But it'll be quite some time yet before the new highway is up and running. They're making progress, but slowly.
Still, I guess it takes time to build roads.
Anyway, we got there safe and sound. Only to discover that Ma had decided Zaizai's fur was too long, too matted, and too dirty, so she gave him a hair cut. She had hacked all the long fur off his head and ears. My dog looks like a monk! And somehow lzh decided this was a good idea, hacking his fur off, so on Sunday morning she and Ma held Zaizai down and hacked all the long, filthy, matted hair off his belly and legs. My poor dog! Funnily enough, he didn't pay much attention to lzh for the rest of the day. Don't blame him, either.
The rest of our time in the village was spent pretty much as per usual. Ma and Ba did their usual farm chores. I sat around watching DVDs and drinking beer. lzh alternated between helping her mum, watching DVDs with me, and amusing herself somewhere else. We dug out our old badminton rackets and tried to play a bit of badminton, but there was a bit much wind for that. And occasionally we'd have to round up the lambs and chase them back into the pen they can break out of far too easily.
Saturday afternoon, after Ba had taken the sheep out to graze, leaving the lambs behind as per usual, I was watching a DVD, Ma and lzh had gone off shopping. I heard some odd noises out in the courtyard, and looked around to see the lambs had escaped yet again and the dogs were chasing them round the yard. I rounded them up, got them back in the pen, put the gate back where it was supposed to be, and was heading back inside when I heard baaing from the well.
One of the smaller lambs had fallen down the well. I discovered the hard way that my arms are not long enough to reach down the well, grab the lamb, and pull him up, even if I lay flat on my belly. The ladders in the courtyard were too wide to be of any use. But the well wasn't too deep. So I climbed down and was reminded just how stupid sheep are. The bloody lamb tried to run away from me. That's right, that's exactly how you do it: You're stuck in a well with no way up, somebody comes to rescue you, so you run in a circle around the well to try and escape your rescuer. Anyway, I grabbed a hold of the lamb and threw it back out of the well, then set about finding a way out for myself. I'm 1.8 metres tall, and I guess the well must be about 2 metres deep. I had my feet planted on the edges of the bottom of the well, which were a few centimetres higher than the centre, but still.... Well, I managed to hoist myself up so that my head and shoulders were above ground, then found a couple of footholds on the sides of the well that allowed me enough purchase to clamber out.
Bloody idiot sheep.
The good news, though, is that Hu the cat had three cute little kittens, who are just now entering that age where they're curious about everything and just about strong enough to go and find out.
Anyway, that was about all the excitement of that trip. Now we're back in the city. lzh is at work, and I'm doing everything I can to avoid work until 2 this afternoon. Life as per normal, in other words.