A beautiful Sunday afternoon deserves a nice walk in the country and we are conveniently in the country living here in the Expert Village. The sun is shining and we decide that we should walk down the road towards the power plants. I drive this way to work every morning but LaDawna has only been this direction once or twice since we have been here.
I want to get some pictures of the green house farming that is done here before the weather gets nice enough that the farmers take down their green houses. There is one spot where the entire 40 acres is under about 200 greenhouses. We have seen the number of green houses diminishing over the past several weeks as we zoom past them on the way to work and I want a closer look.
I am also interested in taking a closer look at the reconstruction that is being done on one of the bridges we have to cross. They started work on it about a month ago, stripping away the blacktop and then pulverizing the top 4-6 inches of concrete. Surprisingly, or not now that I have been over here for many months, is we didn’t see one piece of rebar or wire mesh in the entire bridge mat. The removal process exposed the tops of the pre-stressed concrete beams and it was the only metal we could see as we passed through the work zone. The beams looked like they had a wire mesh and not much else. Not what we would have expected for a bridge that has been carrying the huge trucks hauling rocks to make the piers for the deep water harbor being built in front of our apartments.
We have had our lunch and hook up the leash to the dog and head out the door. The wind is blowing so I opt for a jacket but it is still a nice April Day. We head out to the street and turn towards the East. The flowers are blooming and the trees are blossoming. I can see that we are probably going to miss the peak of the blossoms when we go to Yantai next week. We can hope that there will still be enough blossoms on next week to make it enjoyable.
The bridge is about 500 km from the entrance to the Expert Village and they are pouring concrete in the first bay of the bridge. I have watched them over the past several weeks prepare for this moment. They have drilled holes into what remains of the mat and placed rebar into those holes. They have criss-crossed the bridge with several alternating layers of rebar and have been tying it together. It makes me wonder how they figured it out that there wasn’t any rebar in the mat in the first place. In this country it seems to be quite common that a person will get away with whatever the customer allows them to. Not a glowing recommendation for a construction project that is just down the road about 5 kms, I am certain that there are not enough people watching to ensure that the standards are equivalent to the US if the workers are wanting or willing to compromise the results will be less then we hope for in normal construction expectations. It makes my head hurt when I think about my responsibilities for due diligence in the construction completion and turnover realm.
The concrete being discharged onto the bridge is also an interesting mix. I am used to seeing concrete that stays mixed. As I watch this come down the chute, I realize that the aggregates are piling up and the concrete is running away from it. Were I putting this in my house I would be terrified of the poor results. I am sure that my concrete construction friends in the US would tell me just from the pictures that they are going to have problems with this in the future.
The green house farms are amazing. We look out across the field and it is completely covered with green houses. They have farmed at least one crop of either tomatoes or cucumbers and have been converted over to wheat. The wheat will be uncovered over the next couple of weeks and the green houses will get stored until fall.
We wander through the little farms and look at the little green houses. The farmers look at us and laugh. I realize that we are probably the only non-Chinese people these people have seen here. Sure they see more of “us” in town but most of them are never seen anywhere close to where they work or live.
We look towards the south and we can see the waves and decided we want to walk down to the beach to see what it there. We enter a little village, it is a fishing village. The locals either work with the fishing fleet based there or across the road in the little village there. We wander along the outskirts of the town, the further we get from the road the more concerned LaDawna becomes. We are really getting out into the rural China.
We get to the last bunch of buildings in the village and the dogs are barking and going crazy, and there are some big dogs chained near the fish ponds as guards. I realize that we are “out there”. This is neat at the same time kind of scary. No one even knows where we are or what we are doing.
We get to the beach and it is not much of a beach; it has a bunch of little enclosed ponds that extend out into the ocean and the waves are breaking over the walls. I wonder how long it has been since these ponds were used to raise fish; it certainly has been more than 10. We begin walking back to the West and see a Chinese girl that nearly trips while walking because she is staring at us. I realize that I am standing in a spot in China where it is a reasonable assumption that I am the first non-Chinese person to have ever stood there! Now that is pretty cool but also disconcerting because we are no longer in sight of the road and we are surrounded by the poor villagers of China.
We finally find another road leading out of the village and head out. We wander towards the left, knowing that there is a little cemetery there and we want to see what kind of pictures we can get there. We appreciate the things we have learned by visiting the other more important cemeteries in Qufu. We know why there are differences in the headstones, and that it isn’t just arbitrary.
We are finally back at the road and head back to the Expert Village. We have been walking for just a little more than 3 hours. We have covered roughly a 4 km circle but we have seen things that we never imagined possible before coming to China. We feel lucky to have been here and to have these experiences.