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My Life as a Woman Farmer

Li Xinyi


When we went to Jiangxi, the Xinya students enrolled in 2018 headed for three different places. Our team, the majority headed for villages, a handful stayed on Tsinghua Campus to rehearse Shakespeare's drama, and the rest paid an academic visit to LSE in prosperous Great Britain. We felt the most wretched compared to other students: they showed photos of the streets and delicacies of London — modern and with classical beauty. For us, life featured dark warehouses and insects of various sizes. This comparison was disheartening.Therefore, it was unrealistic to boast about labor-based study. After a prolonged inner struggle, I decided to give up on the method of writing "a comprehensive summary" and "discussions about the meaning of life". I was worried that I might sing too high praise of the experience before I knew it. It would be grandstanding. Therefore, it is better to document my life at that time in a straightforward way.

My attitude towards labor-based study formed on the day when I arrived attheBaishikeng Village. Before, I didn't seem to have any special feeling (It means that I am not going to write about the week I spent in a factory). I am a person who tends to get excited in the face of difficulties and new stuff. When I first arrived at Baishikeng, I was actually very excited. Compared with other students who immediately showed confusion and disgust (because we saw spiders in the dormitory), I thought to myself: "It is not a big deal!"

But it turned out that the mentality might just be a stress reaction. I needed a companion when going to the bathroom that night. When I went to bed, I still felt a twinge of fatigue. The next day was the hardest to bear.It began with mountain climbing. In the afternoon, we farmed for the first time. For novices, those experiences were exciting enough. The ancient road on the mountain was desolate. In some places, the village head had to open the way for us with a sickle. Mist gathered in the air, and everyone slipped several times. Although they didn't mention it, everyone felt very tired. It was dead silence after lunch. Those who had nothing to do went to bed. The situation did not improve in the afternoon. The Meihua Mountain, the place where we worked, was even more barren, and it was almost impossible to move. The boys cut grass awkwardly to make the way on the narrow steps. The girls behind were wrapped up by the boring air and stood there at a loss. It rained hard later, so we went back. All the way was muddy.

That was not the end of it. When we returned to the village, we had a bath problem. The girls didn't know how to use the water heater in the shower room. We mistakenly thought it was broken, so we occupied that for the boys. The boys were also anxious to take a bath, but after all it took time for water to heat. I didn't know how many boys and girls took a cold bath. Someone did and got sick with a cold and fever. My clothes became damp, and some students realized that they didn't bring enough long-sleeved clothes and trousers. Some students wept... The three team leaders including me had a meeting on the first floor of the warehouse at 10 p.m., whi

Why did we find it hard to adapt to the new environment? In fact, we had almost the same experience in Baishikeng in the following days but began to smile. We found it hard to adapt because we encountered many difficulties, which disheartened us. What's worse, this mood spread quickly.It dawned on me that we couldn't make it if we did not stand together. No difficulty couldn't be solved, but the three of us couldn't solve the problems alone. I felt optimistic, but I couldn't manage to encourage others, which really frustrated me.

Daily Life

There was a water pipe that I liked very much outside the girls' warehouse. I washed my face and rinsed my mouth there every day. The morning breeze came up as I brushed my teeth and watched the green farmland next to me. In a sleepy state, I seemed to be enjoying my life.That water pipe was the only facility to provide water for the girls. The water was drinkable. At first, I was worried that drinking the water would cause diarrhea, but the water coming out of the pipe was really sweet. Once, I drank the water from the pipe before a mouthful of the remaining mineral water. The latter tasted really bitter. I no longer thought the former was dirty. I even got into the habit of drinking the pipe water when I was thirsty. To be frank, that posture was not elegant. The water pipe was low, so I had to lower my body. I didn't care about image, so it was not a problem for me. The habit lingered on. After returning to Tsinghua from Baishikeng, I still had the impulse to drink from the faucet in the bathroom.

It was two kilometers between where we lived and where we labored. It was not a long distance, although I once walked back along with a patient for more than half an hour. I also saw a boy run back in slippers in order to take a bath as soon as possible. (The assistant leader said in a seemingly exasperated voice, "He must have been dawdling".)I like walking, so I always felt it was pleasant to walk down the road and never expected to arrive early. Unfortunately, no one wanted to sing. My voice was unpleasant to the ear, so I didn't open my mouth. That road was ideal for singing. I kept thinking of "singing folk songs" as I walked. It was a luxury to do nothing for a period of time. Walking and enjoying such a "waste of time" gave me a peace of mind.

We worked on a hillside. What we did was to mow the grass. Mowing was a technical job. Several boys worked outstandingly fast on the hill. Often, two girls must follow one of them to pick up the grass they cut (In fact, the boy who just trotted back was one of them). Of course, they also had some funny habits. For example, the assistant leader "Grandpa", one of the main labor force, always liked to utter the sound "Ha" ("Listen to my roar of a valiant man") while working; another liked to insert a stick in the ground and hang a straw hat on it to mark his work progress (The best place to insert a wooden stick was a rabbit hole. We felt that was cruel. A senior schoolmate told us that rabbits usually have three holes). Later, when we saw reeds for decoration purposes in ZiyangCollege, the assistant leader said excitedly that he had the impulse to go up and cut them.

The main task of the girls was to put the grass cut by the boys next to the plum trees and osmanthus trees for composting. This job sounded easier than that of the boys, but the girls lagged behind in work when the boys became more skilled. Fortunately, skills were improving, especially after the boys cut thorns. This gave me a new understanding of the phrase "carrying a rod and asking to be spanked" because it ignored my gloves all together. The girls each got one wooden sticks like those the boys used to explore the way. But it is difficult to find a handy stick. The grass that was cut down was too soft, and the dead wooden sticks left on the ground were fragile. It depends on luck to find one. On the last day of work, a boy found a long and strong solid wooden stick for me. It must have fallen from an adult tree. Anyway, I was glad. He split the stick into two pieces with the right length. That afternoon was my happiest working time — probably as happy as a boy holding a freshly sharpened sickle.

A very important thing that we did back in the village after work was washing our shoes. "Keng" in the village's name Baishikeng literally means "a puddle" because there was a stream beside it. I like the stream (another thing that I like very much ...). It was cool and clear and free from insects. I washed my clothes twice on the river. In short, it was also a very happy thing to wash shoes in the stream after working on the hillside. The stream was cool, soothing my feet that had long been in rain shoes. It was excellent to wash hands and faces with the water. We often talked about catching fish in the stream, but it was a pity that we never saw any fish. It rained heavily the night before we left Baishikeng. In the morning, the river turned into a scary mud flow.

Warehouse and Housework

When we were not working, we did housework in the warehouse, or watched my schoolmates do. As an assistant leader, I must assume the responsibility. The team leader was so reliable that I did not have much to do. I usually strolled downstairs and collected the straw and bamboo hats, paper towels, garbage, mouthwash bottles, water bottles, umbrellas and raincoats that my schoolmates threw around the dining table. One most important chores was to wash the dishes. No one asked us to do it, but we did it consciously. The students who washed the dishes differed as time went on. Sometimes I wanted to help but other students were already doing the job. I felt proud as an assistant leader. It was really interesting when the students gathered together and told many stories.

The first floor of the warehouse was noisy when we washed the dishes. As the people went home after meal, the warehouse became quiet again. We felt inexplicable panic because it was too quiet in such an afternoon. The last day had also been raining all day. In the afternoon, a handful of us sat on the first floor of the warehouse to experience the tranquility of time.

In the evening, the first floor of the warehouse became lively again. The students got together to readthe Analects of Confucius. Sometimes, the activity went astray before everyone showed up. After all, it was great to play a two-person game on a tablet on such a casual night. Sometimes we forgot what we were expected to do, yet that kind of night was enjoyable.

Oh! I still remember the starry night. Every night, I would drive out my senior schoolmate (Because the old man he lived with did not have electric lights, he had to come to the warehouse to study and always stayed until the last moment) while putting away the stuff. As I finally watched the boys who had finished their work walk onto the dark path outside the door and locked the door, the first floor of the warehouse was plunged into serenity again. The wooden ceiling did not insulate sound well. The laughter of the girls upstairs could spread to the first floor. Anyway, it was time for rest. I latched the door and turned off all the lights. The noisy day was over.Every day ended in this way, regardless of whatever happened during the daytime. I think that's why I like Baishikeng. Despite all kinds of difficulties and the ridiculously funny things, life was ultimately calm. A quiet night can put an end to all problems.Although I still had to get up in the morning to open the door for the cook, it would all take place tomorrow. Everything of today had come to an end as the quiet night fell. To be honest, one does not enjoy such reassuring moments on campus.

Last Words

I may not be able to reproduce that time. I can't tell why I like my days in Baishikeng. The departure was really hard to endure. I also admit that the conditions there were terrible (On that morning of departure, I swore to myself that I would never come to this little dirty bathroom again. This was true). I just hope I do not regret the days I spent in Baishikeng and this article doesn't taste bad due to its loose organization.

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