Maria Holland

Goodbye, Farm

In Uncategorized on May 27, 2010 at 10:24 am

I woke up at 8, which around here is pretty much midday.  Because the entire country is on Beijing Time, the sun rises here around 4:30 in the morning – the first place in China to see the sun – and that’s when a lot of things start on the farm.  This unfamiliar schedule certainly does not help when suffering from jet-lag after a 24-hour journey over a 13-hour time difference, but I’m finding it disconcerting even compared to the rhythm of days in Xiamen. 

I brought a whole bag of food up here, goodies from America or Xiamen’s Metro that are difficult to find even in Yanji.  As of this morning there was just one bag of chocolate chips left, so I made cookies.  They turned out NQR (Not Quite Right) but I blame that on the NQR butter, NQR flour, or NQR oven and not on myself.  They tasted good, at any rate, so who cares what they look like?  Not the kids, apparently!

We had cheese sandwiches for lunch – the same as yesterday and the day before – but let me tell you, after 9 months in China, I just can’t get enough.  There was mozzarella cheese melted between the bread, feta oil for dipping, and a new kind of Russian cheese to spread on toast.  Also, there was milk – good milk – to go with the cookies!  Dairy, where have you been all my life these last nine months??

In the afternoon we walked over to the dairy barn so I could visit the milk lady and milk man.  I brought them some cookies and sat with her for a little while.  They’re from Inner Mongolia, and she has a pretty heavy accent.  It’s just another reminder that, no matter how good my Chinese gets, there will always be some Chinese with whom it is hard or impossible for me to communicate.  But we had some nice comfortable silences . . .

The taxi came at 3:30; I ended up packing in a rush and didn’t remember to say goodbye to the farm until I caught the last glimpse of it out the window.  Bye-bye, farm, see you next time . . .

Lyte and I went into town to Xiao Zhang and Xiao Li’s place, where we were going to learn to make 饺子, the Chinese version of ravioli.  I was hoping to help Xiao Li make it from scratch, but when we got there the wrapping and inside were already made.  As I feared, she explained it with a list of ingredients and not a single measurement for reference.  Ugh!  But I got to help her run the dough through the noodle press, cut it into circles, and then 包 the jiaozi, putting a spoonfull of filling in each circle and folding it snugly.  Xiao Li is a jiaozi ninja, but I did much better than last time, when at least half of mine fell apart upon contact with the table. 

We made over 200 (nothing compared to last time, though, when we made over 600!) and were joined by Timothy, Naomi, and the rest of the kids to eat them.  The entire table contained nothing but plates of jiaozi and bowls of soy sauce and garlic.  It was an epic feast.


The family went home after dinner.  I don’t know if I’m going to see them again, so we said our goodbyes.  I got hugs, kisses, and promises to remember me from the kids, and a smile and a blessing from Naomi.  I can’t say how much of a joy it has been to know them these past few years, and I sincerely hope that our paths will cross again in the future.

Xiao Zhang, Xiao Li, and I finished watching the evening’s TV show and then Xiao Li went to bed.  Xiao Zhang and I talked for a little while before he said goodnight, about my future (both in terms of school and boyfriends).  He wants to know when I’ll be back to China, back to Hunchun.  Join the club, Xiao Zhang . . . I wish I knew, I wish I could put a date on it, I wish I could make promises that I could keep, I wish I could make plans I could count on.  But I can’t. This is the first time I will leave China without a pretty clear idea of when I’ll be back, and to where.  Honestly, I have no idea.  I don’t see it being next summer, but I am so obviously not in control of my own life that my word on this counts for nothing. 

Xiao Li joked earlier about me taking her home with me.  It would be great – she could cook for me! – so I said that I would take her in my ‘xinli’.  This caused a little bit of confusion, as no one (including me) was sure whether I had meant 心里 (in my heart) or 行李[里] (in my luggage).  We carried the joke further, discussing what I would do when the customs officer saw her in my luggage (I, true Chinese that I am, said I would offer a bribe).  But seriously, I will carry these people back to America with me in my heart. 

It would be so comforting – to them and to me – if I could put a date on my return . . . but as I can’t, this will have to do until then. 

  1. Wonderful blog… Kind of bittersweet, and I feel for you, sweetie.

    By the way, you sure have met a lot of ninja’s over there! I thought they were from Japan?! You still need to find a ramen ninja, though, before you return.

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