Yichang is rich in tea and oranges. Tea leaves are mostly picked and dried in the spring all the way through the fall. Oranges are picked from October until December.
Green led us teachers on an outing to the outer district of Yichang to enjoy the coutryside and scout out a place to hold an activity around Christmas time.
The orange groves cover the hills. Rustic stone tracks divide the carpet of trees so that crates can be filled with oranges and then rolled down to trucks waiting to ship them to town.
The countryside offered a reprieve from the pollution and general congestion which is hardly escapable in town. I was tired after a long weekend of 11 hour workdays. Oftentimes I just laze around the house to catch up on sleep and cook. But I wish to explore the outer areas of Yichang. I really wanted to go on this trip.
I learned the basics of orange picking. I was told to look for evenly colored oranges. They should be big and round, not oblong. Also I should look on the bottom of the orange for a ring around the center as a tell tale sign of sweetness. And most importantly, these were not actually oranges. They were tangerines. Their large leaves and the thickness of skin indicated the fact.
Of course, I was less interesed in picking oranges and more interested in photographing. Photographing really is a treasure hunt of sorts. A hunt for interesting objects that can be made into images. Sometimes photography is about capturing moments meant to be appreciated later. The mundane today might age extremely well. In any case, we picked enough oranges to fill three 40kg bags even while I wandered around musing about nonsense.
. The owner of the restarant was a sweet woman. She set up the majong table so we could play as we waited for the food to arrive.
And she brought us sunflower seeds to nibble on. When the food arrived, she offered to let us wash our earth-dusted hands in the kitchen sink rather than have us wait for the restroom to be unoccupied. That was sort of a mistake as the floor was cluttered with discarded packages, wood shavings, even fresh greens. The counters were filthy with sign of frantic lunchtime use. There was no soap at the sink for hand washing but a purple bottle of shampoo.
That would have ruined my appetite if not for being used to such sights and being incredibly hungry.
Although the flavors are nice, i often wish Chinese cooking techniques included quartering a chicken properly. Bones are hacked in the middle causing them the splinter. Rubbery meat clings around joints making it difficult to eat off. Boiled constantly in a rolling vat of oil and soup, fresh greens are added and flavored with the peppery soup as the vitamins draw out of the wilting leaves.
She asked Xenia and me to take a photo with her in front of her restaurant. Perhaps she doesnt get many foreigners in her restaurant and she felt a little proud.
The short ride from the restaurant to the reservoir was winding where workers were sorting and loading trucks with crates of tangerines. We approached turns slowly as motorcycle carts piloted by tangerine-sized and seasoned pickers.
I enjoyed the quiet and cool air of the reservoir. The landscape is not so inspiring. The colors are completely muted and Although the overcast grey skies prevents midday shadows that doesn't compensate for missing out on some natural vibrancy. So mostly I just enjoyed resting on the grass. Come December, this area is going to be much colder and possibly dusted with snow. The grass will dry and be brown and needle-y. We might have to rethink our winter plan.