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October 8, 2021

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Staying for a week with a farmer in Guangdong

My palette of close friends and acquaintances include business tycoons, ministers, Kings, farmers.

And so it came to pass that, many moons ago, I was invited to spend a week with a farmer’s family, far away in the whop-whops of Guangdong Province. At the time, the roads were not paved and every farmer still farmed their 5 mu (0.8 acres) of land which used to be enough to maintain a sole family and left a bit to be hoarded into the bank. No Internet then, so, I had to make a daily trek on the back of a rickety motorcycle, piloted by my student and family heir; mount the riverbank and download my emails in the dusty universal shop.

After many years of savings, a three story farm house was built, two floors of which remained unoccupied, with cement floors and sparse furniture consisting of a low Mahjong sized table and six low mini-chairs that noped the sitter with knees touching chins, yet were convenient to chopstick ladle rice from the bowl, directly into the esophagus.

Having been a rubbish dump treasure hunter in my teenage years, I ventured into the second and third floors unoccupied rooms and found a trove of discarded items and collectables that had been acquired by grandpa in years gone by and I was welcome to relieve the family of this cultural ballast while enriching my collection of China specific historical items, magazines and old photographs.

The farmer’s menagerie consisted of 4 mother pigs with about 12 babies each, 6 noisy geese which acted as the guardians of the place, a gaggle of ducks and uncountable scrawny chickens that kept grandma supplied with enough meat and boiling bones for the creation of hearty Chicken soups on wintry days.

The terminal destination of all this animal and human poop was led into an underground compost digester that provided bio gas for cooking, bathing and, in winter, heating. However, in order to maintain the gas production, visitors, and that included moi, were habitually invited to offload before going home. So, before shaking hands and goodbye kisses and thanks for a splendid stay, I was gently ushered to the (squatting) toilet to make my deposit to the ecology-friendly digester and at the same time lightening the load for the return trip.

The author is a freelancer.


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