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A Laowai's Trip to Guizhou (Part 1): Time of transition in Guizhou's mountain villages

09-12-2012 13:58 BJT

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By CCTV correspondent Mary Davis

A simple life among the mountains, that’s how the 132 residents of this remote village live. This Rong’ai area of Dazhao village sits in a valley between enormous Karsts in the Qiannan Buyi and Miao Autonomous Prefecture.

Inaccessible by car, these minority villagers spend 3 to 4 hours traveling to and from the nearest town. For some, especially the elders, the rocky roads and winding switchbacks have proven too difficult. And they’re grateful for the outside help they receive from local officials.

Liang Yong has helped look after the villagers in Rong’ai for more than a dozen years. He delivers products like salt, soy sauce, and other materials the villagers cannot make themselves. He borrows a car once a week for the journey, driving it as far as it will take him before the hiking begins.

Liang Yong, leader of Rong’ai, Dazhao Village, said, "Many young people have had to move away for work. There are mostly women and children left at home. It is not convenient or safe for them to travel by themselves. So we always help them to buy daily necessities."

Liang Yong, leader of Rong’ai, Dazhao Village

The average income for Dazhao residents is less than one thousand Yuan, or just under 160 dollars, PER YEAR. About half of them receive financial aid from the government.

Like many villagers hoping to bring in money for their families, Liang Chengmei moved to Zhejiang province, as a migrant worker for years. She’s recently moved back home to help raise her children.

Liang Chengmei, resident of Rong’ai, Dazhao Village, said, "Before, when I was working outside the village, it was not convenient to contact my family because there was no signal in our village. Sometimes, my family would go to town to call me. Other times, they would wait up late until I got off work, and then climb to the peak of the mountain, hoping to get enough service to call me."

Though proud to preserve their customs, these villagers’ daily lives are stuck in the past, as the rest of the country speeds ahead.

Liang Chengmei, resident of Rong’ai, Dazhao Village

"People have been living in this village for more than 300 years, but now the government is building housing for them in the largest nearby town. About 90 percent of the residents in the village are behind the move, but it bears the question: Will the move improve their livelihood, or leave them struggling to afford life outside the village?"

The new housing system will require residents to pay for 30 percent of the costs, while the government will cover the remaining 70%. Villagers will also be offered loans from a local credit union at low rates. Though the move could bring new struggles, Chengmei says it’s a risk she and her family are prepared to take.

Liang Chengmei said, "We are ready and willing to move. We really wish the day would come sooner so that children can go to school more conveniently, and we needn’t worry about them so much. And I know we’ll be able to find jobs in town."

Government housing has barely broken ground, but residents have been told they can look forward to celebrating the coming Chinese New Year in their new homes. Villagers are hoping there is enough room on their backs to carry 300 years of tradition as they make their way to their new lives.

Mary Davis, CCTV correspondent

Villagers are hoping there is enough room on their backs to carry 300 years of tradition
as they make their way to their new lives.

Editor:Wang Chuhan |Source: CCTV.com

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