Friday 9th September 2005. Changle, Zhejiang, China.
All along road people, old grandmothers especially, are stripping bamboo with beaked hatchets, tying up bundles of bamboo leaves, stacking and sorting canes, feeding them through metal stripping machines, loading them onto little trucks which disappear under their loads.
Some people are making good money out this, to judge by whole villages being rebuilt with huge gaudy Disneyland houses, pink Corinthian columns supporting gothic castle turrets on the roofs.
Later I pass a sign to Anji - "The Hometown of Bamboo". Irridescent blue and black butterflies in the bamboo forests.
This little village, Changle, doesn't seem to have hit the bamboo big-time yet, though it has at least two places to stay. At the first, I meet a very enthusiastic guest, singing the praises of the place. The laoban(1), though, is more downbeat about the idea of my staying. So I head across the road to the Long Feng Da Jiu Dian, where I find a room upstairs in a 5-bed dormitory.
Prowl round town, hunting my essentials: juzi(2), bananas, biscuits. Dinner downstairs at the Da Jiu Dian, spinach and tomato with rice. Mr Bean's steak tartare sketch is on the TV. Outside, the karaoke/disco is really thumping, someone hooting into the microphone with more gusto than talent. Good for him, I don't even have gusto.
Man tells me: "you know, you look really like a laowai(3)." I don't think he believed I am a real laowai. (Here in Changle!)
(1) Boss, owner, man-in-charge, person in authority, man with key.
(2) Tangerines, clementines
(3) Foreigner, especially westerner