It doesn’t quite seem possible that it was ten years ago this month that I was looking forward, with some trepidation I might add, to a trip to China. This wasn’t just any trip. I had secured a job teaching English in a far north city called Qiqihar. I was oscillating between sheer excitement, huge worry and definite doubt.
Well, my excitement was due to the real possibility that this was an adventure I’d been talking about since first visiting China in 1989 (and that has a story all of its own that I must recount one day – it was the year of the Tienanmen Square incident – and I was there). The worry was concerning the propaganda of the media – I worried that the people would be unhappy, there would be starving hordes and that the government had an iron fist. I imagined being hounded by police – I was worried that I would break rules and regulations of a communist country and then be punished forthwith.
The doubt? Well, until the moment I set foot on Chinese land, I was seriously considering that it was all a scam.
Of course, I was wrong on all counts. In fact I now think that our western society is much more regulated than Asia. Here, there are so many rules that it is far easier to be on the wrong side of the law!
My time in China, where I taught for long hours to large classes, wasn’t all fun, but I earned good money (by Chinese standards) and I loved every moment of my time there. I learned so much from living in another culture that it was worth every hour I worked, and even though I enjoyed coming home, I would go back in a second if I was able.
Now that I am home, the property I live on has a hold on me that is difficult to break. I try to emulate some of the practices I saw in China. I milk a cow, I have chickens for eggs and I grow my own vegetables.
I watched the Chinese gardeners, and they work extremely hard, with many hands (the one child policy was relaxed for rural farmers so they had more children to help) and they use human fertilizer that has been composted in shallow squat toilets. (don’t feel too sick! – that’s just a way to use their wastes).
Now, in Australia, this is considered a health hazard, and as I was by myself, I had to find an easier way than all the digging I thought had to do to make a viable vegetable garden. I obviously wanted another viable fertilizer, too.
A no-dig garden was the answer!
Now I use fertilizer from my cow and hens. I compost their straw bedding. All of this is added to my garden patch, after first laying down a thick pad of newspapers which I collect from our local rural newspaper office.
My garden takes inspiration from the China I lived in, worked at and loved.
One of these days I will add a new book to my author’s page (viewAuthor.at/MaureenLarter) about my experiences in China. I have my title already – it will be called ‘Board Beds and Sawdust Pillows’.