Once again, our upper stories remain strangely dark as the rain comes pouring down. At present, there are 4 tents now set up in my apartment complex courtyard.
Earlier in the day, we had quite a crowd gathered outside when another large rattle at 3:14 p.m. sent everyone upstairs pounding down the stairwell at top speeds.
“Zou, Zou! Kuai, Kuai! (Go! Go! Quickly! Quickly!)” seem to be the phrases on everyone’s lips these past two days.
The tremors have been continuous all last night and all day, which I find a bit disconcerting. In Taiwan, our major quake likewise had tremors afterwards but these dissipated and were far between. It seems every 10 – 20 minutes, we have at least one that rocks my light fixtures. For awhile, people felt calm and returned to their upstairs’ apartments until the 3:14 struck. Several more strong tremblers followed after that. This caused another large tent to be erected by a concerned 5th floor family. They, however, came more prepared to pass the time. They set up a table inside and began playing mahjong, a traditional Chinese tile game famous here in Southwestern China.
At this time of night, the rain has sent everyone scurrying away to stay with friends and relatives in other parts of the city. Our tent campers are still holding down the earthquake fort, even with this constant rain. I do wonder about Sichuan University’s campus and what students are doing at this moment. Hopefully, they’ve found some security in returning to their dormitories under the supportive care of their classmates.
This steady rain and the tremors we’ve been having are not at all doing any good for rescue efforts to the north. TV news reporters stand under umbrellas in the dark, giving commentary while behind them, workers try to continue their digging through the soaked, wet debris.
One of my greatest concerns actually lies with a Luzhou student of mine, Jason (Li Ke), whose family I visited last year in the hardest struck area.
Jason’s parents are farmers and live in a tiny village of 200 near the city of Dujiangyan, which has had thousands of deaths, including those of children in a collapsed school. Dujiangyan is quite a famous tourist destination. It’s renowned for its irrigation system, built 2,200 years ago by Li Bing (an official of Sichuan Province) and his son. It is the oldest and only surviving no-dam irrigation system in the world. A lovely park area allows visitors to walk the entire mountainous grounds and view what a magnificent accomplishment this was for the 3rd century B.C. Small temples and pagodas nestle in the thick woods throughout the park, making it a very pleasant all-day venture.
Jason and I toured the park first and then visited his home later on, a mere 40 minute bus ride from the city.
I still remember the warm welcome Jason’s family gave me upon my arrival in their small village. His family was one of the few that had a 2-story cement home with an open, cleanly-swept courtyard that looked much like the traditional China of years ago. On one side, the family sow was busy taking care of her 14 piglets and on the other, Jason’s father’s farming wooden hand-tools were carefully laid out.
It was a pleasant May day so many in the village had brought out their mahjong tables which they set up alongside the dusty, narrow country roads that passed here for streets. Jason led me along pathways that passed by ancient sod houses with clay tiled roofs held up by thick wooden beams. These are typical farming houses with outhouses in back. Some have no running water. Floors are packed solid dirt. Bare lightbulbs dangle from the ceilings to give off a little light in the windowless rooms. These kinds of houses are dank, dark, and moldy. It’s no wonder that so many of the elderly in China who live in such places have terrible congestion problems.
We walked through Jason’s grade school classrooms, long-since closed and deserted. Now students attend school in a small town on the main road that leads to Dujiangyan.
He took me to visit his paternal grandfather, likewise a farmer who had toiled in the fields for many years. Everyone had worked very hard to make sure Jason received higher education. None in the family had made it past the 4th grade, nor could they read or write. Jason, 19, and his older sister, 25 and a high school graduate, were the first to have a good education.
I also remember how pleased Jason’s neighbors were to have a foreign visitor, the first their village had ever had. They greeted me shyly at first until they realized I could communicate with them in Chinese and then they began to open up more.
I fondly think back on this visit just a year ago and now worry how Jason’s small village is today. Was his home, built by his father, stable enough to withstand such a large quake? Had the sod houses, which dotted the pathways we walked, made it through the shaking? Were all his immediate and extended family members, whom I saw, and his kind neighbors, safe? I have tried several times to contact Jason by telephone to find out the news of his family yet I’ve been unsuccessful. I can only await an email from him or his call telling me, hopefully, that everything is alright.
I know that I am not the only one in this situation in China. There are many more who have closer ties to those who have gone missing than I, but we all are in the same boat together: Waiting and hoping that all is well with those we care for and hold dear to our hearts.
Until next time, I’ll leave you all with “Ping An” (Peace)