Friday, 22 June 2012


The final stop on the journey through China, Beijing.
We managed to pack a fair bit in during the last few days, a trip out of the city to visit the extended family of our interpreter and guide, Emma was a highlight. A typical rural scene, wheat ready to harvest, some cotton about 150 mm high, corn and various other crops at different growth stages. The soils were good and irrigation from ground water gave a productive feel.
Looking across the landscape, I could imagine a modern agricultural system stretching into the distance, large tracts of flat land, pivot irrigators and associated efficiencies.
I can't help but consider, however, the cost to the local community such a change would precipitate.
This must be just one of the dilemmas the Chinese leaders must face constantly. Growth has to be managed very carefully in the context of a huge population, as rapid urbanization could be disastrous.

I was not without emotion as I stepped onto Tianamin Square, this symbol of democratic struggle and oppression. Moving around, it's hard not to notice the cameras on the rooftops and light poles, and feel the survelance as we sat on the warm pavement contemplating the events of the past....

After only 10 days in China, I have a far greater appreciation of the culture and the people that make up this vast and historic country. A week later and I'm still trying to come to terms with the contradictions and moral questions thrown up, despite pushing my own values and judgements aside.

Finally, I must relate one amazing story. After dinner on the last night in Beijing, a small number of us decided to finish the evening sitting outside at a bar with soft jazzy music playing and a bottle of red wine. On leaving, we hailed a taxi, piled in, only to find the taxi had no meter, the fair an arbitrary negotiation not worth entering into late at night. Out we scramble amid some unhappy sounding dialogue from the dismissed driver.
Another taxi was hailed and we repeated the maneuver, and settled in for the drive back to the hotel. As we neared our destination, I felt for my phone, left hand pocket as always -no? Then where is it!
The sinking feeling was quickly replaced with the calm of recognition that my phone was gone, period.
Emma was sure I must have left it at the bar, and dialed my number. Engaged.
Finally an answer!
A lady had found it in the back of the first taxi, and was trying to ring numbers in the recent list.
Our taxi turned around and a location for the recovery arranged, all the while I could not believe I could be that lucky!
My faith in humanity is restored!

In all, I would go back in an instant. However travel would be extremely difficult, an interpreter essential, as the language barrier is almost impenetrable.
A huge thanks to Emma for putting the majority of the programme together, her interpreting skills as well as her willingness to enter dairies, piggeries, and traipse across fields in the hot sun in order to help us learn about Chinese agriculture.
Thanks to everyone involved.....

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