I had so much been looking forward to this time of year in China due to a particularly touching rescue which took place a year ago. I include my WeChat journal entry here to explain the story and my sadness in a delayed return.
March 23, 2019
Today, I took advantage of the cooler weather and a free Saturday to once again trek the countryside trails in my area.
For 3 years, I have been exploring and visiting farm families in the deep hills surrounding the school. But, alas, the bulldozing and construction sites have finally taken over. Plans for the expansion of my school campus are the culprits. Luzhou Vocational and Technical College is well on its way to spreading far and wide into its Phase 2 development project: building a nearby second campus. This includes a high-rise apartment complex for our teachers’ families (we only have a single teacher apartment building at present), an experimental elementary school run by the college to train our future teachers, a furthering education department for adult educators of all majors, new dormitories for increased student population, more classroom buildings and another cafeteria plus school store are expected to be completed within the next 2 years.
Land was handed over by the city government for this but construction didn’t begin until just recently.
The Chinese Farmer’s Lament
I enjoyed talking to my newfound friends on my weekly wanderings and we had a treasured relationship. I often asked when they would leave. They continued to wait, knowing it would take time for the workers to get to their area.
The time of demolition arrived after my return from America during our Spring Festival holidays. The Year of the Pig brought no reprieve for my friends.
Today, I walked my old countryside pathways to find rubble where once stood happy homes. My farming friends were lamenting their loss of land, community and beauty of countryside life. They had stayed as long as possible but now, a majority were moving to a more populous city area, into housing complexes provided by the city government.
My bulb rescues
During those years of walking trails, I had admired a rusted bucket of amaryllis which bloomed with such elegance. I admired these flowers for 3 springs but dared not remove them. Today, with their impending doom, I rescued the hardy bulbs to take home with me. I salvaged 6, placed in a discarded bag and returned to my apartment to replant in a new home.
The sadness I felt watching the China landscape I cherished being ripped to shreds was overwhelming. It is hard to witness such destruction and feel powerless to stop it. But I have this one small piece of the friends I once knew: amaryllis which someone kept with such care and devotion, tending to the plants’ needs and watching them bloom at the doorstep from their bucket resting place.
Whoever you are, fear not that your flowers have disappeared along with your family home and memories of nostalgia. I will keep them safe. Your flowers and I shall make a new life together, one which will make you proud. And every year, when they bloom, I will think of you, your family members and your lovely home surrounded by tall, thick bamboo, those many years ago. Know that you will not be forgotten. I am sure they will grow to be happy here. I certainly know I am happy to have them.
April 3 – 10, 2019
Follow-up: Today, March 25, 2020
I left my amaryllis pots and my houseplants in the care of my colleague and neighbor, Bruce Lu. All are positioned on the bathroom’s tile floor, where it is easier for them to be watered. Bruce has the key to my apartment and has been tending to them every 2 weeks, a duty which now seems to have no end in sight. I can only imagine my amaryllis might be feeling a bit depressed, once again feeling deserted by family they loved. I have not heard reports from Bruce if they’ve begun to grow yet or not after a long winter slumber. I can only console them with this: “Take cheer, little ones. Grow as best you are able, and hope that next year, we will be reunited to once more enjoy your beauty together.”
From Illinois, here’s wishing you 平安 (ping ahn), peace, for your day.