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A Texan's Spring Festival adventure in China's countryside

Editor: Li Kun 丨CCTV.com

02-17-2016 15:04 BJT

By Tom McGregor, CNTV Commentator

Texas has long been known as a cowboy state, all because the Hollywood movie star John Wayne played popular roles as a Texas cowboy, riding a horse into the sunset to rescue the world.

Nevertheless, the cowboy image no longer resembles the real Texas today. Instead, the Lone Star state is urbanized, modernized and fully air-conditioned. A regular Texan does not own an oil well, live on a ranch or ride a horse. They are more likely to reside in one of its top 5 cities - Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, Austin and Fort Worth.

City-bred Texan adapts to China

I did not come from a family that enjoyed camping, hunting and fishing. Our idea of outdoor adventures was to get sunburned on a beach in Corpus Christi. To do anything more risky was just too much trouble.

Accordingly, living in Beijing since 2010 has not been difficult. Who needs to go fishing, when you can eat at a seafood restaurant. The waitress just scoops out a live fish from the water tank and grills it.

Beijing offers all the regular amenities for living that you will find in the big cities of the US or Europe. But with added benefits: super-low electricity prices. According to calculations, my electric bill in China is roughly 1/10th of what I would pay in Texas.

Enduring culture shock in rural China

Nonetheless, there's more to China than Beijing, according to my Chinese-born wife, Zhou Yawei, who insists that her rural farm village near Fufeng City, Shaanxi Province, has its charms too.

Every year, we visit her ancestral hometown to celebrate the Spring Festival and bring our young son, whom I nicknamed "Reporter Peter," on my WeChat. Yet, making the trip is not as easy as it sounds, since I had never slept in a farmhouse before arriving in China.

The struggle starts the moment I arrived at the Beijing West Railways Station, at 7 am Sunday morning, Feb. 7. I carried heavy bags and must find the right train while walking through massive crowds.

I came alone, since my wife and kid arrived earlier in her hometown village. Fortunately, I find my seat on the train and wait 5 hours to reach my destination in the North Xi'an railway station.

From Xi'an to Fufeng village

Xi'an is a beautiful city, but I had no time to view it, since I had to carry my bags cross town by going on the subway, where I was expected to meet my brother-in-law, his wife and kid, who would drive to my wife's hometown.

But the exit at the subway had no escalator and I carried bags a long flight of stairs. By the time, I reached the car, I assumed I could catch a brief nap.

But a few moments later, I opened my WeChat, and discovered that my young nephew took photos of me sleeping in the car and had already posted them all over the Chinese Social Media. Needless to say, I stayed awake for the rest of the car trip.

After arriving at my parent-in-law's home, I still could not rest, most of the village children wanted to greet a real-life Texan. They did their best Texas imitation too, they all carried toy guns and kept shooting at me for the entire week I was there.

Waking up with a bang

I finally fell asleep the first night, but at 6 am the next morning, children with their toy guns rushed at my bed to inform me that it's time to go to mass at the village Catholic Church.

Going to Mass in rural China is a unique experience. Villagers with high-level status, are assigned to set off loud and spectacular firecrackers at certain parts of the service.

They bring in cartloads of fireworks in preparation for each Mass and set them at the front porch. One time, they asked me to help them. That's an amazing honor for any Texan. The man who sets off the fireworks during Mass is considered to have earned special status in the local village.

Coming to acceptance of routine

Most days were the same as any other, during the Spring Festival. You get woken up by kids shouting and shooting their toy guns at you at 6 am. You go to church at dawn, and you visit different family homes to eat.

They always served noodles, and nobody could figure out why I like to drink soup, when you were only expected to eat the noodles in the soup. I confused them further by only drinking the soup and refusing to eat the noodles inside the bowl. I'm a real rebel.

Seeing signs of urban progress

There were some nice surprises during my stay as well. I first visited my wife's hometown in 2011 and when I passed the town of Fufeng, it only had a hospital, grocery store, PC room and motel.

But this year, I saw rows and rows of apartment buildings, crowded pedestrian streets, bustling shops. I myself purchased an apartment in a complex called, "Roma's Garden" in 2013, and when visiting my new home inside, I felt like I just returned to Beijing for a brief moment.

Of course, we need to put more furniture there, but the pleasant surprise had proven that even in the rural countryside, China is transforming into an economic powerhouse.

Best of all, there was a local hot pot restaurant, serving all you can eat meat and vegetables without any noodles, along with all you can drink beer for only 35 RMB. ($US5.50). That's what I call the Chinese Dream, a beer buffet on the cheap.


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( The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Panview or CCTV.com. )



Panview offers a new window of understanding the world as well as China through the views, opinions, and analysis of experts. We also welcome outside submissions, so feel free to send in your own editorials to "globalopinion@vip.cntv.cn" for consideration.

Panview offers an alternative angle on China and the rest of the world through the analyses and opinions of experts. We also welcome outside submissions, so feel free to send in your own editorials to "globalopinion@vip.cntv.cn" for consideration.



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