A Day in Shuanglang

On my day off as an intern, I decided that I would bike into Shuanglang—to eat lunch, peek into a few stores, and explore the area. Upon my return, I wrote the following in my notebook, to reflect upon the experience:

Although I had already eaten lunch, my taste buds craved something fresh and light…fruit possibly? I wasn’t quite sure. This peculiar craving lead me to a quaint farm stand on the side of the road; not quite as bustling as the restaurants and teashops in the surrounding the area, nevertheless I was enticed to see what was there. Approaching the farm stand, my eyes immediately became fixated upon a large wooden bowl of luscious, mouth-watering grapes. Without even questioning the alternative fruits at the stand, I purchased a fairly large bunch of the grapes for five yuan, or roughly eighty-five cents.

I walked along the sidewalk away from the farm stand, and just before I began to feast on my delectable purchase, a woman approached me, and kindly offered to wash the grapes. I at first politely declined, saying that it was okay, yet after persisting in her request several more times, I finally gave in.

The woman lead me just behind the bench, to the front room of her home. The layout of the room was simple, yet quite functional—on one side of the room there was a burner, a small counter, a rack full of kitchen supplies, and on the other there was a small eating area where the woman’s daughter and granddaughter sat.

The woman handed me the grapes, now washed, and offered me a seat at the table. At first, my presence in their home felt awkward, as if I were this spontaneous American imposing on what seemed like their time to relax. In addition, my four years of Mandarin study seemed useless, as their accents were so thick, it was quite hard for me to put together what they were saying.

Yet after asking them a few times to repeat themselves, I could slowly understand what they were saying. Before I knew it, we were talking about Shuanglang, the tourism in the area, my family back home, my school, and my study of Chinese. What I believed to be the most interesting part of our conversation however, was our discussion of skin tone in China, and how it often related to one’s social status. If one had a paler skin tone, they told me, this automatically entailed them to be “better looking” and more successful.

In response, I explained that in the US, everyone that is pale yearns to be tan, and that tanner skin is generally considered to be “better looking”. I expressed to them that skin color should have no effect on one’s social status, and that one’s skin tone is certainly not better looking than the other. We concluded the conversation by stating that we always seem to want what we don’t have, and once we get it, we yearn for something else.

Glancing at my watch, I realized that forty-five minutes had passed since I had been welcomed into their home. Hoping to make it back to the Linden Centre in time for dinner, I thanked them very much for their time, yet stated that I should probably begin the journey back. They offered me bottled water and snacks for the ride back, but I polity declined, stating that I already had some.

The highlight of my experience in Shuanglang was not the extravagant restaurant where I ate, nor the several shops I peeked into. It was rather, conversing with two wonderful people that were generous and kind enough to welcome me into their home. My experience with them certainly made my day.

Oh, and the grapes were pretty delicious too.

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Here out personal interest to experience rural China, Newell Woodworth is currently an intern at the center. Newell’s from Lambertville, NJ, and is currently 17 years old. Newell enjoys traveling, running, biking, reading, and spending time in the outdoors.