Saturday, February 27, 2010

Wei Ziqi On The Brain

With a return to our "other capital city home" on the horizon, the four of us are daydreaming about places in Beijing we can't wait to see again. At the top of the list, of course, are the alleyways of Saoziying, the neighborhood where we lived for the year. We are all envisioning a triumphant return, with lots of happy faces...and the food, food, food, food!

And then there is the shopping. Desi and Julie are ready to buy some more countryside clothes at the stalls of Xizhimen. Z, of course, is saving his money for extended bargaining runs at Panjiayuan and other markets around town.

My thoughts seem to be turning to Wei Ziqi. I think there are two reasons for this. Those days we spent in Sancha were flat out spectacular. The hiking was fantastic, with excursions to the hidden Ming Dynasty wall, as well as the remains of an even older Yuan Dynasty section. (Yes, that pile of rocks is a piece of what we call the Great Wall.) Even better was the time we spent in Sancha itself, eating the delicious cooking of Cao Chunmei and talking (and drinking!) with our host family and other visitors from Beijing.

My mind is also wandering to Sancha because I am, right now, reading a new book in which Wei Ziqi figures prominently. Country Driving, a new book by Peter Hessler, has just hit the stands. The book is Hessler's final in a trilogy that tracks the incredible changes sweeping China, all from the perspective of everyday people who are shaping and being shaped by the uncertain world around them. The middle section of Country Driving recounts the years following Hessler's discovery of Sancha, a period during which he lived part time in the village and got to know Wei Ziqi and his family really well. When Hessler describes this little village at the end of the road, I am immediately transported back to those remarkable hills. When Hessler talks about Wei Ziqi, Cao Chunmei, and their son Wei Jia, I immediately conjure up memories of freshly grilled trout, squeezing into that small red car, and getting lost on the way to the Yuan Dynasty wall.

I want to get lost again...



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