Maria Holland

Meet Goose Lady

In Uncategorized on May 25, 2010 at 11:16 pm

This morning I finally had the opportunity to explore the farm.  I took the four oldest kids for a walk down to the cow barn, up to headquarters, and back – a twenty-minute walk that took over an hour because of my small walking buddies.  It had finally stopped raining, and the farm had that shiny look of something that God just power-washed.  The blues were especially blue, the greens especially green, and the whites looked like something out of a laundry detergent commercial. 

Farm 2

The air out here is so clear that you can see the Hunchun power plant, 20km away. 


In Xiamen, where most people say the air is pretty good, most days you can barely see Gulangyu!

The kids even sensed something special in the air, continually pointing out things that they see every day and exclaiming over how beautiful they were today.  I think the farm is one of the most beautiful places I’ve been in the world, and it was nice that they seemed to agree. 

Despite the mud, the kids kept pretty clean until we got to the bridge.  At that point, their desire to chuck various objects into the water and watch them come out the other side overpowered all else . . . Sorry, Naomi, I tried!


I had a taxi to catch when we got back, so the girls made me a sandwich to-go.  Homemade mozzarella cheese from their cows on homemade whole-grain bread, fried in butter from the same cows and served with homemade marinara sauce . . . aaaaaaaaaaaah.  I’ve tried the 5km Diet, and it is good. 

I got dropped off at Crazy Mart, where I met up with my very first Chinese friend.  ZaiBin was the only Chinese person that I actually interacted with on my first (8-day) trip to China.  He had been working as the driver for an American horse farmer here, and knew enough English that I remember a conversation with him about the persecution of Christians in China and North Korea.  His English has gotten better on each successive visit, and after the rapid improvement my Chinese experienced since last time, we’re able to switch quite freely between the two languages. 

We went to lunch first, eating bibimbap (and chicken wings) at a Korean restaurant.  Bibimbap is one of the foods that I fell in love with here in Hunchun, but after having it in Tulsa and Xiamen, I wondered if I had remembered liking it incorrectly.  It’s just not that good . . . anywhere but in Hunchun, that is.  Dolsot bibimbap is a mixture of rice, meat, vegetables, and a fried egg, served in a freaking hot stone bowl. 


Kind of like fajitas, it is served to you still dangerously hot; you stir up the mixture while the bowl continues frying the egg and cooking the rice to a delicious crisp. 

I 请-ed him to eat lunch, so he 请-ed me to drive me somewhere.  I immediately knew where I wanted to go – a small house nestled in the hills directly next to the Hunchun power plant.  Having already taken me there several times, he knew the place I was talking about, and we set out.

We drove through town and another 8km towards Tumen.  I read signs out loud the whole time, at the request of ZaiBin who wanted to know how well I read in Chinese.  “Persevere in building the Changchun-to-Hunchun highway”, “Steel sold in bulk here”, “Hunchun City export processing factory”, etc.  We turned in on a nondescript dirt road, drove through a construction site or two, tackled a steep narrow dirt path, and then we were there:

Tanner 111-1

Goose Lady’s house! 

I first met Goose Lady nearly three years ago, on my first trip to China.  ZaiBin said he knew of a woman who was living off her wind turbine, and took us to check it out.  What we saw there, captured in the picture above, came to define for me what our project was all about.  This woman, despite living a stone’s throw from this enormous power plant and in the shadow of its high-voltage power lines, was not connected to the grid.  Instead, all her electricity came from the small wind turbine above her house.  Small-scale, economically profitable, locally sourced appropriate technology offering freedom and improved quality of life?  Check, check, check, check, check, and check. 

On subsequent trips to China, I have visited Goose Lady.  It’s a sort of pilgrimage, visiting her home in homage to the ideal of sustainability that she’s living.  Plus, they grow apple-pears (which are more delicious than either apples or pears), and she always gives me some.  Plus, I have to update her on the geese she sold to Timothy on that first visit (hence the nickname).

She seemed happy to see me today.  Her husband joined us too, although that got off to a rough start when he asked me what my honorable last name was and I totally dropped the ball on the answer (sorry, just no one asks foreigners 您贵姓? – and my last name isn’t really Ma!) 


She echoed the comments of everyone else I’ve seen on this trip – my Chinese is way better, and I’m thinner (really??  That’s what they say . . . ).  She said I’m a 大孩子了 (a big kid now), and that I’ve 长大了 (grown up).  Even having the language ability of a Chinese 10-year-old is better than the infant I was last time, so we were able to have a good conversation.

We left after an hour or so, bag full of apple-pears in hand :)

ZaiBin took me home to the farm, where I played with the kids until dinner.  The main task was assigning every dinosaur a name from the summer 2008 SENEA team.  From left to right: Brittany, Josh, Blake, Alli, Sarah, Caitlin, Michelle, Tanner, and me. 


  1. Mom went to the YMCA so I got to read your blog first today! Score! By the way, please learn to make dolsot bibimbap because it sounds excellent!

  2. Just caught up on all your latest blogs Maria!
    So glad that it’s not true what they say: you CAN go home again!
    Give those cute kids a kiss from Aunt Mary!

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