Driving towards the Dazu Caves our driver pulled over at a bend in the road to snap a few photos of a possibly rare crane. Not having much of a clue about flora and fauna I wandered off to look at the tumbledown house on a small rise overlooking the paddyfields.
Whilst I tried to figure out whether it was derelict a small dog bounded over and half-heartedly barked a couple of times before nuzzling my hand. This caught the attention of the home-owner, who came out of the toilet, buckling his belt. Without washing his hands he came over and put his palm on my shoulder before breaking into a big smile.
“Hello, where are you from?” – It’s a struggle to make out his thick accent.
“Britain, but I live in Beijing” He raises his eyebrows at this. Ducks wander over.
“What are you doing here?”
“My friends are taking photos”
“I can’t say”. I don’t know the word for crane. It doesn’t occur to just say a bird.
The others appear and he speaks to them instead
“He says you’re not very good at Chinese.”
Still, it’s a refreshing change from the people that fawn over any foreigner who can say “Hello” and “Yes”.
He offers us a tangerine, just picked from his orchard. It’s sweet, juicy and delicious, so we offer to buy a few.
He weighs out a huge pile of tangerines using an ancient balance. 6jin (5lb) of tangerines comes to eight yuan ($1.30, or less than £1). This is incredibly cheap, but I’m not sure we’re going to get through that many.
Oranges are not the only fruit
An elderly woman appears, carrying a large wicker basket full of grapefruit slung over her shoulder. She slowly makes her way down the slippery path towards the road. The old man watches this, waits until she’s all the way at the bottom then calls for her to come and sell us the grapefruit. She turns and struggles back up the hill.
I don’t particularly like grapefruit and we’re already in possession of far too many tangerines, but now feel obliged to buy a few. She tells me they’re 20rmb each. This is the opposite of incredibly cheap.
I buy one and give it to the driver. Unexpectedly he whips out a knife and attacks the green fruit, offering me a large slice. I now have to eat it – it’s not as bitter as a yellow grapefruit, but it’s still a struggle to look enthused.
“Do you want some shi zi?” I have no clue. Nobody knows how to translate this and our phones are out of reception. It’s getting chilly, so I vaguely hope it’s a hot drink.
He points at a yellow plant. “That’s a shi zi”. I vaguely remember seeing them in shops before, but hadn’t bought one. The elderly woman sets off down the hill again and the others follow her to look at a newly arrived bird.
He hands me a shi zi. I don’t know how to eat it. I can see it’s a fruit, but I’m wary about just taking a bite in case the skin is inedible. Also, it’s covered in mud, grit and his unwashed hands.
“I don’t know how to eat it”. He has better things to do than teach foreigners how to eat fruit, so smiles and we part ways.
Later I look it up and find it’s a persimmon. I forget to ask the others, so I still don’t know how to eat it.