|Of course, we were well aware that life in
Xinjiang is not all singing and dancing, especially for the majority of
the population that farms for a living. We had had ample looks at backs
bent over in the fields, harvesting cotton, wheat and – most back-breaking
of all – China’s staple food, rice. One afternoon, driving back
from a forgettable trip to a weird, deserted structure that apparently was
built as a movie set – we decided to get a little more hands-on.
We first stopped the bus alongside a cotton field bursting with white bolls. The kids eagerly tramped out to pick one – and immediately recoiled when they found that not only the stems but also the leaves of the cotton plant are bristling with spikes and sharp points. All of a sudden, they realized that picking these appealing fluffballs was not as fun as it looked from our bus windows.
We gingerly picked a few samples, and headed on.
Next quick stop, just up the road: a rice paddy. Standing on a narrow strip of raised mud over a wet paddy field, we picked a stem of rice and described to the kids the back-breaking, wet labor it took to plant, harvest and then process it.
After looking at one stem’s worth, they started thinking about how many stems and how much effort it took to put a single bowl of rice on the table. If “farmer” was ever on their list of potential professions, we’re pretty sure that these few moments in an actual field have knocked it off their list.
We were almost finished with our visit, but
we first needed to track down an old