Turpan sits at 154m below sea level and has thus been dubbed the title of China’s Death Valley. In fact it is the second lowest point on earth Besides that vast wasteland in Nevada. However, despite the oppressive heat and lack of water, for thousands of years Turpan has been inhabited and of recent years, has done quite well with its vineyards. As an oasis of sort, the town and valley is accented with rows and trellises filled with bright green vines! Today I got an inside look at the up keeping of these vineyards.
One of my favorite parts about traveling is completely immersing myself in a persons environment and seeing what their normal life is like as opposed to merely glimpsing them in connecting in passing. Almost becoming the fly on the wall and getting an inside look. I feel that the language barrier and cultural riffs assist me in this effort as they give both sides no reason or ability to actually communicate what is going on but only witness each other’s actions.
This morning as I was walking alongside one of these beautiful vineyards I saw a commotion on the edge of the field. Peering through the trees I saw an old man and woman jumping up and down on these huge metal grates and shoveling dirt into the ditch. We made eye contact and they only chuckled as they realized how silly they must look. I continued to observe as they pointed and made a bunch of guestures regarding their efforts. After carefully analyzing their situation I realized that these grates were stuck and they must be trying to block these ditches to collect water. Still only a guess but I dropped my gear to take a closer look. Looking at the grate for a minute I realized that it wasn’t quite aligned and that’s why they couldn’t push it down. So after adjusting that, we were able to easily shift the grates into place and fill the surrounding area with shoveled dirt. Pleased with my work, they promoted me to follow them deeper into the vineyard and assist them with the rest of the ditches.
It was such a beautiful calm morning in the vineyards and it felt so great to be so removed from the hectic Chinese cities and witness the simple life. When all the grates were fixed, we left the vineyard and were preparing our goodbyes when the old man put all his fingers together and waved them to his mouth. The universal gesture for eating! I couldn’t refuse! So we walked through the rest of the village that skirted the vineyard and made it back to civilization. There they took me to a little restaurant practically connected to their home where they made sure my plate never emptied and my glass was never drained! I will never forget the hard work and generosity of Pahardeen and Grujanet.