Village life in pictures

This is my hometown.  I lived here for close to 16 years before heading to the college in Beijing in 1981.  My mom and many of my childhood friends love this place, as they have been living here all their lives.  To them, this is the best place in the world.  Some of them even tried to convince me to move back to here permanently.  It sounds like they each have the intrusive right to tell me where and how I should live my life, ha ha.

“A picture is worth a thousand words.”  Today I’d like to share more pictures about the life in this village.

Water, and water:

Am I complaining about this village again?  I know I should stay positive.  A week ago, I went to my friend’s place in the town, and finally took a shower.  The town is 7 miles away.  When was the last time I took a shower?  I don’t remember it.  It must be 3 or 4 weeks ago.

My friend told me to go to her place whenever I need a shower, but I don’t like to bother her that often.  How much difference does it make if I take a shower weekly, or every 2, 3 or even 4 weeks?

This centralized well does need protections, as the whole village depends on it.  But how to protect it?  The simple fence and door/lock won’t do much trick.

Last Friday, the water for the whole village stopped for almost 24 hours.  Probably some pipes were broken due to the chilly weather.  My family had to think about how to use less water, and let the water in the clay pot last longer.  We were not sure when the water would be back.  In the worse scenario, we would have to use the hand-pump well as a temporary backup.

As you can see, running water is still an issue here.

Since there is no running water, the in-door toilet is out of the question.  It’s horrible to go to the outside, at the temperature around 14 degrees Fahrenheit (-10 degrees in Celsius), with the chilly wind blowing.  But it has been this way for thousands of years.

Winter room heating:

This is the stove at my mom’s place.  Only one room is heated, and I have to share the room with my mom in the winter.  Privacy?  What is privacy?

Sometimes I’m worried about the carbon monoxide, as there is no CO detector here.  But it has been this way for many years, and it seems the local people don’t worry about it.  CO was not a concern to me either when I was growing up here.

This stove is also used for cooking.  Last week, I was chatting with my college buddies about this stove.  They said: “Helen, roast some sweet potato on the stove.”  I tried, and it tasted pretty well.  Thank you, my friends, you enriched my exile life.

There are other ways to do cooking as well: using electricity, the gas container, or the traditional wind blower and the huge pot.

There is a small electric wind blower hidden behind the red box.  The manual wind blower is used as an alternative, or as a backup during the power outage.

Other things:


Traffic here is not good, and is a mix of chaos and order.  In the town, there are only a few traffic lights.  My friend has about one year driving experience, and never wears the safety belt.  But she handled this mess very well.  I’m getting freaking nervous when sitting in a car or a bus.

I hope those pictures give you a glimpse about the life in this village.  The other day, GYM of Gen Y Money said she liked to see more pictures about this village.  She inspired me to explore and record it.  Thank you, GYM.

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9 Responses

  1. Hi Helen. Your pictures and dialogue are very interesting. I can see why you appreciate your life in the U.S. so much. We natives take so much for granted. Tom

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Hi Tom, yeah, the life here is a big contrast to the life in US. I’m glad I left this place, and chose US my home. Material discomfort is one big thing. Another thing is the way people talk and think, and what they value, and I found it so different.

  2. Joe says:

    Wow, thanks for sharing. Your hometown has a long way to go.
    I’ll take more pictures when I’m in Thailand. It’s pretty developed now.
    My parent lived in the countryside for a few years when I was young. I still remember the big clay pot and wash basin. Brr…
    Happy holidays!

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Hi Joe, this place is still very backward. The funny thing is that, once a while, I saw some nice cars in this village, like Toyota RAV4, Volkswagen, Honda Accord, etc. It’s such a mismatch. I don’t know how long it’s going to take to have the 24×7 running water and in-door plumbing and sewage system. Yeah, the big clay pot and the wash basin go hand in hand. Enjoy your time in Thailand, and happy holidays!

  3. GYM says:


    What are they gossiping about in the temple? That Temple looks really nice. There are some parts of the village that look very modern (like the new cars) and other parts that don’t look modern (like the unpaved roads). Yeah, I would worry about the coal stove too, but I bet that sweet potato tasted delicious! Are there chestnuts that you can try roasting too? 🙂

    Oh gosh, that shower must have been amazing for you! I bet the first thing you do when you go home is take a nice warm shower.

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Thank you, GYM. Here in this village, many people are the moral cops. They question the relationships between the monk (who is not supposed to marry) and the two ladies: are they boyfriend and girlfriend? People are living under the microscope: judging others and being judged.

      Yeah, this place is such a mix of being backward and modern. Roasted sweet potato is nice. I haven’t seen any chestnuts, and will look around next time in town.

      Another month to go in this village. I can’t believe I have survived the last 70 days. I will be in Beijing for several days before taking off. Yeah, definitely I’ll take a shower once in Beijing, and have fun with my friends there. I guess I have a lot of blessings to count once back to Ohio. That is my home, sweet home.

  4. Katrin says:

    Just catching up on your posts. Thanks a lot for sharing, that’s really fascinating! Also really let’s me appreciate the level of comfort we usually take for granted!

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Hi Katrin, yeah, to the outsiders, this is a different world. But the locals may not realize it.

      I found out, it’s as easy as a breeze to upgrade our life comfort, like what I went through 22 years ago when coming to America. From showering once a week to daily? Sure, I’ll take it, great. But the forced downgrade is very hard, like what I’m going through. But, the hope is almost there. I’ll be home in less than 4 weeks.

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