Jianhe, a small town with a population of 80 000 (in Sweden that’s an average city…), first impression on me was that every house was painted white with light grey decoration. This is something I haven’t really seen before in China. Sure, there’s a lot of buildings with their grey concrete facades unpainted, but this was more of a commitment to creating a grey city. It looked nicer than it sounds though, situated between mountains and a river. At night they turned on the lights and suddenly the grey buildings showed their true colors, shining in blue, red, green and yellow. It was as if someone decided to make this town especially vivid during the dark hours. Unfortunately, my buddy Yangfen couldn’t tell me the reason behind it all.
We arrived by bus and it stopped in the main street, we got into a cab and we were outside a plain apartment building. Lifted our luggage (both mine and the lady’s of course) up 6 flights of stairs and got the key to another hostel room. During our time together I never really understood how she found these hostels, but they were all cheaper than anything I could have found by myself, and none had a European toilet. Sometimes travelling with Yangfen meant lots of things happening quick without me really understanding what was going on. But it sure did add to the feeling of adventure!
In Jianhe I was introduced to Yangfen’s aunt, and later her aunt’s family. When we first met her in her shop (selling children’s clothes), I was treated to my first bowl of rice porridge, something very different from the rice porridge we usually eat around Christmas in Sweden. After having finished as much as seemed reasonable using chopsticks I decided I prefer the Swedish one. The days main sight was the central coffeshop, where Yangfen had told me I would find a foreigner I could speak English with (very considerate of her). We arrived at “Jariboy” and stepped up to the man, his appearance making it impossible to mistake who we were looking for. A Frenchman, it turned out after some initial confusion. I had gotten the impression Yangfen knew the guy, but apparently she’d mainly been conducting normal Chinese stalking, He was a nice guy though, and his Chinese level was about similar to mine, making it possible for us three to have some simple conversation. He had been the only foreigner in Jianhe for two years now. A life so far from what I would consider, but I guess falling in love with a local girl really influenced one’s decisions.
That night I was invited to family dinner, and I was warmly welcomed by both grandparents and children. Now, my Chinese skills were not remotely good enough to keep up with this many people speaking local accents, but I tried my best to smile and nod whenever Yangfen hinted it to me. The food her aunt served was some of the best I’ve had in China. Simple fried vegetables, scrambled eggs and rice, surrounding a well-seasoned stew containing duck, onions and chilis. Everything in Guizhou is spicy. After dinner, Yangfen’s uncle treated me the local specialty tea, which Yangfen told me she herself hadn’t ever gotten to taste. Talk about hospitality, I was quite astonished and deeply thankful. Afterwards we went to the town square were I jumped into the public ring dance. I got quite comfortable with the first to, but on the third variance it got to hard for me, and I fell back to enjoy watching the locals dance.
Next day I was taken to one of Jianhe’s main attraction: the hot springs. Claiming not to be fake, hot water tubs like some nearby one’s, this is supposedly an actual volcanic spring. The water was hot enough alright! After having survived another night in a room without heating this was the first time in several days I actually felt warm. I could have stayed all day, but as I had been invited as a guest of Yangfen’s aunt’s family I had to leave after less than an hour. Still, it was a great hour. After a quick visit to the hospital greeting a newborn relative (I felt a bit uncomfortable but very happy), my journey with Yangfen was coming to an end. After having some delicious ice-cream at Jariboy’s we headed for the bus station. We shared a hug and as I sat alone on the bus I felt very sad to leave her behind. Four days and nights of constant company, even with a language barrier, can really bring you close to someone. I’ll be visiting her again before I leave china, my dear travel companion.