D35: 云水谣→湖坑 [The Internet and the Clock Conspire, Currently No Pictures] - Oh Hai - CycleBlaze

November 13, 2019

D35: 云水谣→湖坑 [The Internet and the Clock Conspire, Currently No Pictures]

Living in the 21st century, whether you are currently 65 or 25, it doesn't matter whether you are from a modern first world country (whatever exactly first world means) or an up and coming developing country, you've probably experienced a lot of technological changes in your lifetime. And, if you're like most people, you are probably somewhat resistant to some of the newer, stranger, weirder fads in technology. It seems you've only just gotten used to the idea of X and now Y has come along on.

Doesn't matter whether X is a personal computer or internet on your phone, these past few decades there have been a lot of Xs and a lot of Ys and a lot of 'old fogeys' (and not so old fogeys) who are resistant to picking up whatever the newest, latest and greatest tech is.

This trip through Fujian has been particularly eye-opening with regards to the stubborn resistance people everywhere have to adopting new technologies. However, the technology which nearly everyone seems so reluctant to get on board with is one that, to me, as an American, isn't new at old. My Dad is in his 70s and his family had one when he was a kid. Heck, what with her family being rather well to do and into engineering related things, it's safe his mother had one in her childhood home. I'm not quite so certain about my Mom or her side of the family, but at the same time, knowing what I do about that Grandma, I can't imagine my Mom's mom raising her kids without one.

You might find yourself asking, what is this new tech?

What tech could possibly be relatively new in the 1920s, relatively mature in the 1940s, and common in households throughout the United States by the 1950s, yet be an unusual one for households here in this part of China?

The Washing Machine.

It's not just that I've seen people hauling buckets of water up from a community well and sitting in front of their house doing laundry on the stoop. It's not just that laundry sinks with built in washboards are still an item for sale. It's not even that luxury single-piece granite laundry sinks with built in washboards are still an item for sale. It's that I've been asking at various hotels if I could use their washing machine because my hand-washing skill is insufficient to defeat more than a day or two of biker sweat and while I can kind of sort of get away with wearing a rinsed shirt a few days in a row, if I don't have a clean dry chamois, I get all sorts of unpleasantness down there.

Most of the hotels have washing machines. Not all of them though. And some of those that don't have washing machines aren't sending their laundry out to a service. They are somehow managing to make clean smelling sheets and towels and whatnot entirely with giant basins of water and scrub brushes.

Of the hotels that do have washing machines, some of them only have oversized giant machines that fit multiple sheets and duvet covers at once (and which would waste a lot of water and energy on two jerseys and three pairs of shorts), while others are absolutely horrified at the idea that you would put clothing in a washing machine.
Particularly sweaty clothing.

Washing machines are for lightly soiled things, for items that technically aren't even really dirty but those silly billies at the health department insist be changed out between customers. They aren't for clothing. How do you expect to get clothing clean in a washing machine?

And then they point me towards the laundry sink with the built in washboard and let me know where the laundry soap is if I want to use it.

I try not to use the laundry sink with the built in washboard and the bar of caustic yellow laundry soap, not because it doesn't get my clothing clean, it definitely gets my clothing cleaner than my attempts in the bathroom sink with the guest shampoo. However, it does this because someone older and female (or, even worse, younger) gets frustrated watching me at the laundry sink and comes over and does it for me.

But washing machines aren't the only not-so-new fangled technology around here that people aren't adapting to because they simply don't have any reason to adapt to. Tap water is too.

Not every well has an obvious pipe running to it and an electric pump. Sometimes every courtyard has a well and there's only one that's got a pump which is then being used to feed the taps to all the nearby houses.
But every house has plumbing. 
Every house.

Indoor plumbing is kind of one of those things that the Party is all gung ho about in its 'we may be authoritarian, have politics you don't agree with, and a philosophical bent that the ends justify the means but damn it, we are all about workers and peasants and giving everyone a good life' way.
为人民服务 [Serve the People] is like their number one slogan.

But you still see people getting water from wells. Throwing a bucket down on a rope (I've seen a bucket on a winch in China all of maybe twice) and hitting the water just right to pull up a full bucket and then dumping it into whatever carrying container and doing it again, and again, and again.

Why are they doing this if they have plumbing?
If they can just turn the tap and have running water?

Because this is the way it's always been done.

Seriously. Because they don't need this new technology in their lives and don't see any reason to adapt to it.

Obviously, there are other reasons as well. Even if it is actually shorter, the perceived amount of time it takes for a tap to fill a bucket when you've got nothing to do but stare at the bucket and watch it fill can be much longer than walking through your neighborhood to the well that is used by people you've known for the last 50 years. Who are you going to gossip with standing alone in the kitchen watching a bucket fill?

In one of the many tulou I visited today, I got my water bottle filled with well water. I was walking past the well when someone who looked to be in her 70s or 80s was getting a bucket of water. Since I was dry and had been for a while, I asked if the water was drinkable. "Of course". Without boiling? "Of course". And she poured me a cup. It was cold and delicious. The kind of water that makes you understand why some wells are called 'sweetwater'. So I went and got my bottle and came back to fill it up.

There were giant goldfish swimming around in the bottom of the well.

The first level of all of the tulou I was in is now used as the kitchen level. I saw anywhere from 25 to perhaps 50 independent little kitchen setups. Hardly no one able to climb stairs seemed to be living on the first floor though and even in the tulou with an entry fee and a gift shop and a big sign telling tour guides to turn off their microphones inside, I still felt uncomfortably weird going up to the second or third floors of what is basically just a fortified apartment building.

I set my bottle down on her kitchen counter as she scooped water from her bucket to my bottle with a giant ladle type thing. And I realized, as she did this, that there was a sink with a tap right there on the wall.

I think I toured the insides of four tulou today. Maybe it was five. There was at least one regular style old house in there (that was probably older than the tulou near it). I also checked out the outsides of a handful more.

For the most part, I greatly preferred the ones that weren't in the recognized tourist areas, that weren't announcing themselves as UNESCO World Heritage sites. None of the ones that had dates on them were older than the late 19th century. As for the ones that didn't have dates, the residents who I asked didn't know. One woman, who was at least a decade older than me, and therefore had been married at least 20 or 30 years, answered me by saying "I moved here when I got married. I don't know how old it is. I guess it must be more than a century."

I would visit Meilin Town [梅林] again. I would not, however, intentionally go back to Yunshuiyao. As for the Yongding Tulou Cultural Village [永定土楼民俗文化村] which I accidentally came in the back gate of (and which has a charge just to come in before separate charges for the buildings), what little I saw of it while the nice guy on a motorcycle was escorting me to the other entrance so that I wouldn't have to take a 15km detour basically had me convinced I do not want to visit this place.

If I was chaperoning 45 international students on a bike trip to the Real Chinese Countryside (I saw them biking back as I was leaving), it might be just my thing. However, having once chaperoned a very small group (two people) of family friends around China, I will never chaperone a large group of anything. Ever. At all.

I thought Hukeng was kind of overpriced when it came to food and lodging but, I was still kind of close to the giant cluster of tourism so I'm not really all that surprised. The Chinese government's recent experiments in blocking all VPNs making it impossible for me to Facebook or Reddit, I downloaded a book and read that until falling asleep at 8pm.

Today might have been a short day in terms of distance but it was a very steep day and it came on the heels of yesterday's climb and I guess I needed the rest.

Today's ride: 39 km (24 miles)
Total: 2,109 km (1,310 miles)

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