1. August 2017. Even after all these years I still get a kick out of seeing isolated places in off-the-beaten-track China. And they don’t get much more podunk than the insignificant village of Xinyang in Zhejiang Province. Located about an hour from the city of Rui’an, my teaching buddies and I headed out on a typically hot and humid August afternoon. And it wasn’t even the village itself we were interested in, but rather this narrow stretch of river where locals go to seek respite from the unforgiving summer heat.
2. August 2017. There were about twelve of us that day, so we rented a wooden raft boat (70RMB one hour) and flailed about for a bit with the wooden poles in an attempt to navigate our way around the river. It was only later that I realised a much more effective way of captaining our vessel was to simply jump in the water and steer it with my hands.
3. August 2017. Needless to say we were the only foreigners there and the subject of much curiosity. There were families waving at us from the riverbank and a man who kept saying “Hellooooo!” over and over, like it was the funniest joke he’d ever cracked. Nearly everyone had an inflatable ring or armbands, although the water was so shallow it seemed hardly necessary.
4. August 2017. Indeed most of us could simply walk through the river comfortably enough. I watched this dude emerge from the trees on the far bank, beyond which lay farmer’s fields, woods and rolling mountains. As he passed our boat we were doing a role-play game in which yours truly had just been murdered. So stunned was River Man by this unlikely scene that he actually stopped to have a good old stare. So I smiled and gawked back at him with an opportunistic click.
5. August 2017. I feel fortunate to have got this shot of some locals chilling, particularly as they managed to stay so natural with my camera pointing in their faces. Our merry group of teachers had a great time on the river that afternoon. It was one of those days that reminded me how fantastic life in China can be.
But what I didn’t know and indeed wouldn’t find out until the following morning was that one of our friends had just lost his life back in Rui’an. And so the last few weeks have been some of the toughest in recent memory. His passing has reminded me what a fragile thing life is and how I should push myself to be the person my friends deserve. It’s taught me to be more thankful for what I have and how I should make time for more river days like this one. I wish he’d been there with us. He would have loved it and we’d have enjoyed it all the more in his company.
In memory of Craig Church, 1989-2017.
For more on the region, have a look at My 5s from around Zhejiang Province.
Like these? Then why not leaf through my many other 5s from across China.
I’ve also written a short story series called Challenged in China.