Home again - and recreating the events of the last leg of the journey after being off line. And after having had my first coffee in 30 days...
We had to catch the 8am train from Nanchung for Shanghai so the van arrived at 4am. This is the 9 passener van we had used all week but now it was not only 4 of us but about 200 pounds of various porcelain products. So we packed carefully and believed we would fit. When the van arrived, it turned out it was an oppotrtunity to take the whole van family on a day trip to Nanchung with the Education Bureau's gas so the driver brought his daughter and a cousin, another school official, his wife and her 83-year old mother, plus 2 strangers who slipped him some Mao's at the end of the ride. 3 hours careening down the 2 land roads, out of the mountains and past rice fields with water buffalo, produce carts pulled by bicycle or humans, trucks, vans, cars, motor scooters and pedestrians. Driver creedo: Honk first, steer second, brake only if absolutely necessary.
We observed the development (or remains) of a project China instituted to build apartment complexes in the countryside. The buildings - many, many of them - stood about 1/2 completed, walls up but no windows. Some were being lived in, evidenced by laundry hanging out, but it was questionable whether that was legitimate residency since there did not yet appear to be electricity. I don't know if they were in the process of building or stopped for the time being. It was a long way from any town where residents could get employment and way too many apartments to be sustained by the roadside produce stands or local fields.
The train to Shanghai was new and speedy. Westerners are still a novelty - we are constantly stared at obliquely by the grown ups and frankly by the children. In Shanghai we will not be quite so foreign.