“Beautifully neglected” is the best way I could think of describing Sonya’s uncles place. Sonya’s sister had driven us up a narrow road to the top of a tall hill. The road was so narrow that the van had trouble fitting, and had to leave the big vehicle partway down the road and walk along the property and down the long driveway. Five dogs guarded the land, each tied into their own small house. Their barks were aggressive and they either lunged or hid as if they were not used to finding kindness in humans.
Flowering bushes and fruit trees grew amidst tangles of weeds and tuffs of long grasses. The uncle we had come to see was not there, but regardless, Sonya and her sister led us farther down the overgrown driveway, and passed a second building.
On our left we passed a long pagoda almost obscured by the untamed bushes that sprouted around it, one tree even growing through the middle of it.
Passed the house we followed a foot path to a second pagoda, this one a little less over grown, that looked out over a lake.
The uncle in question drove in on his motor bike just as we were about to leave. He had some people to meet, so the four of us young adults continued our wondering, walking into his orchards to search for ripe red apples.
We met up with Sonya’s uncle again at his other house, where he fed us a delicious lunch. I chose to drink a pepsi over the beer or baijiu that was being passed around. Still I got “gambei-ed”, the chinese version of cheers, which more literally means bottoms up. I participated and quickly found out that pepsi is not a good chugging drink.
After the meal the drinking continued, but the pepsi quickly bloated my stomach, and I tried my best to politely decline.
“As you know, it is polite to drink when someone says gambei to you.” Sonya translated for one of her uncles friends. Nate was in the bathroom and suddenly I felt very uncomfortable with these men that I did not know.
“This is pepsi, it is very fizzy and I feel sick when I drink it fast,” I replied.
“You don’t have to, but you should if you are able.”
I fell silent, feeling very uncomfortable, the cause being more then just my bloated stomach. I didn’t like the feeling of being told something that made me sick was what I had to do. Finally Sonya, asking if I was sleepy, suggested I take a nap. I agreed, it seemed to be a save face way to escape the uncomfortable company, but I didn’t feel relaxed enough to actually sleep. I was glad to get out of the house when we went for a walk.
There was a building complex near Sonya’s uncle’s that was completely abandoned. At first I thought it was old, but Nate pointed out that it had never been finished. Weeds were growing through cracks in the pavement and hinges and light fixtures were rusting. The paint on the lamp posts was cracking and pealing. It seemed like a terrible waist.
We crossed through a playground and onto a road lined with fields of corn.
We were greeted with beautiful views of the mountains and hills around us.
We walked around the perimeter of a lake, following a narrow road to a small village here Sonya’s grandfather lived.
Selina’s grandfather had three dogs: a sheepdog, a puppy, and a big gorgeous tortuous shell greyhound who was adorable and a huge suck. The grandfather kept telling me to take him!
The grandfather left his gate to his courtyard wide open, and his goats kept on running out! She sheepdog would hop up and chase them back in, but the grandfather seemed pretty upset that the greyhound did nothing.
A woman with some sort of disability (Sonya described her as “foolish”) came by to check us out. She seemed very curious and kept trying to talk to me. She did not understand the concept of me not speaking her language.
The sheep ran out once again, but in the extreme heat the sheepdog did not get up. The grandfather ran out after the goats instead, cursing his dogs. One of his friends asked us if we had dogs. When we told him we did, he asked us how many goats we had. When we told him we had none he seemed shock as if he couldn’t understand the importance of dogs without goats!
At the end of the day, as you may have guessed, we watched chinese soap operas and made hats out of straw.