Monday 3 August

Still in the shabby hotel in Changxi, but having eaten good food solidly now for two whole days,

View from hotel window in Changxi

View from hotel window in Changxi

The city is high up on the hill, overlooking the river, and last night we went to a popular hotpot restaurant right by on promenade. Hotpot is a traditional Sichuan meal that might equate to a communal barbeque or fondue dinner. The table is inset with a burner heating a large dish of bubbling broth and oil into which is tipped various selections of meat, vegetable and fungi – depending on what’s selected. A lot of it was unrecognisable – or at least partially recognisable but best not to ask. I think I might have consumed more offal in that one sitting than in a whole year back home!

And it’s a good thing I like fungi, as lunch was at a specialist fungi restaurant, and dinner tonight again a bubbling hotpot of various foodstuffs including this apparent delicacy.

The rain that was predicted last night materialised with the dawn and hardly abated all day – in fact increasing in intensity in the afternoon, preventing us from going to the Kiwi orchards. Instead we visited a local attraction, the Pear Exhibition. Apparently this area is known as the home of the Shi Pear which can grow to 2 kilos and has a sweet, juicy texture. It’s late maturing and the heavy crop we saw on the trees at the visitor attraction won’t be ripe until mid September. On 8 March each year there’s a Pear Festival which draws huge numbers of admirers to view the blossoms – the publicity shows many Statesmen smiling through the delicate white petals.

Me & Kiwi Reseaarchers in Pear Country

Me & Kiwi Reseaarchers in Pear Country

The story goes that a fruit was brought into the area and the seeds distributed between different local families. One of the trees that grew from these seeds produced a particularly luscious pear and the local farmer propagated it, eventually developing the orchard which has now become the Pear Exhibition. The original tree still stands, according to the notice, and who am I to quibble.

I was interested in how the centre financed itself as it was really quite run down and the museum exhibits badly in need of some maintenance. Jiang told me that it’s run by the local Agricultural department, and that each of the workers there has a plot of land including part of the pear orchard which they can cultivate. They can then sell their produce in lieu of salary.

I had wondered about the intercropping system, with strips of maize, peanuts and pumpkins proving occasional groundcover under the trees in the best permaculture tradition, but hadn’t reckoned on this. “Good jobs are hard to find in China” is all Jiang said. We bought a box of pears on the way out.

We all then went for a foot massage at one of the many foot massage centres in the town. Apparently it’s quite a common thing to do – and of course, Chinese style, a social activity. The room on the third floor of the previously rather grand building had half a dozen reclining couches and our feet were variously soaked, kneaded, pummelled and stroked while the young girls failed to disguise their curiosity about me and the colour of my skin, and asked if there were any jobs in England! The tellies blared away (there were two of them tuned into different channels in the small room) and we sipped green tea. The foot massage included a neck and back rub as an extra because of the stiff competition for trade – which I was rather glad of after the long bumpy ride of yesterday.

Then we ate another massive meal of about 10 or 12 dishes circular style and were joined by the oldest Kiwi expert in the area who I’d met briefly that morning at their temporary offices in the city – the original ones having been damaged in the earthquake last year. He certainly looked the veteran, so I was rather shocked to discover that we were born in the same year.

One of the many convivial meals

Me & Kiwi Reseaarchers in Pear Country

It’s strange how we tend to have a concept of how someone of a certain age should act or look – but that it never actually applies to ourselves.

And finally for today!

The Renovation Town

The Renovation Town

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