Mirroring the past

Updated 2016-11-23 10:35:40 China Daily
A 4-year-old girl in Yumuzhai village, Moudao town, bites into a sweet potato.

A 4-year-old girl in Yumuzhai village, Moudao town, bites into a sweet potato.

As I was heading to the train station after leaving Moudao the faces of many people I had met there came into my mind, one after another. The cab driver turned on the radio, which was playing a sad song: "My dear friend, please don't cry," the lyrics said. When the words came round for the second time, I tried to hold back my tears, but couldn't.

A 4-year-old girl was the first person I thought about. After walking on the mountain for nearly four hours, my colleagues and I lost our way, and we met the girl accidentally in Yumuzhai village, about 20 kilometers from the center of town. It was raining, but the girl was standing in an open yard where two seniors were cleaning sweet potatoes. Another woman showed up shortly after.

The women weren't related to the girl; they were her neighbors and babysitters. She had been left with them by her parents, who were looking after the 150 goats they own. She wore a pink coat, but the sleeves were so dirty they were stained black. Although she had no toys or prepared snacks, the girl smiled as she bit into a piece of sweet potato.

I don't know if she has children of her own age to play with, but if so she will have to climb a mountain road with steps built from rocks of various sizes to reach them. The rocks for man uneven surface, almost without a flat centimeter, and some sections of the road are so steep I only dared move my foot forward a few seconds after my previous step had hit the ground.

People have no option but to use the road to go to their fields, narrows trips of land scattered across the slopes where no machinery can be used. All the produce has to be taken home in baskets carried on the back.

While resting in the open yard, I saw Zhao Xueyu, an 87-year-old woman, carrying a back basket full of potatoes. It must have weighed at least 50 kilograms, and I don't think I could stand upright for 10 seconds with that on my back, even on flat ground. Using a hoe as a makeshift walking stick, she moved slowly along the steep road. She has to work because poverty has forced her children to leave town to make a living.

To a large extent, the scenes I witnessed in the village mirror Moudao's past. Just 20 kilometers away in the downtown area, once just as poor as Yumuzhai, the neon lights shone brightly in the evening dark as a result of the tourism development orchestrated by the local government in 2011.

I believe, or at least I hope, that someday all the impoverished people living in the remote town will enjoy the benefits of development.

By Hou Liqiang

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