Good Neighbor

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Story of Good Neighbor

Good Neighbor

Around dinner “special grandma” (who raised me when I was little) and I frequently found ourselves visiting this good neighbor. The good neighbor has always lived here in a humble two-flour house. The house was of a traditional style, with one room dedicated to cooking only. This was situated in the foremost room, with the living room being the next door. Above the living room was the bedroom, which linked to a terrace above the kitchen room. The entire structure was built out of stone and wood, finished with a humble layer of lime plaster.

The good neighbor was kind enough to place stone benches before their house for passerby to rest. We were hardly in the living room when visiting, either because it was difficult for the sun to reach deeply into the interior, or simply because the weather was so amiable the outdoor stone benches seemed much more inviting.

黑瓜子

Roasted watermelon seeds
As a tradition, snacks were always offered by the host, and same here. Roasted watermelon seeds were a standard treat, as they were passed around during holidays, and there’s always extra to go around in every household. It took a while to crack through a handful of these and to eat the kernels while keeping a conversation going. The cracking sound of the watermelon seeds obliterated any chance for awkward silence. 🙂

蒲扇

On hot summer days, a palm fan was used since there’s no electricity in the village. A palm fan is made from an entire leaf of bulrush plants.

Several times “special grandma” and I were caught in sudden downpour on the way home from the hill, and we sought refuge on the good neighbor’s stone benches before making back home, watching the rain drops dripping from the edge of their house’s rooftop, only to miss us by a few inches. Since the roof top overreached the stone bench by some margin, we stayed dry.

粽子

Zongzi (similar to rice dumpling)
During the Dragon Boat Festival, we’d make extra zongzi (similar to rice dumplings) to pass around the village friends, and the Good Neighbor was among the first to receive them. Sometimes, we needed reed leaves (to wrap the cooked rice) in order to prepare zongzi, the Good Neighbor would be happy collecting more than enough reed leaves for us.

When the Good Neighbor made meals, I remember they’d dump leftover foods into a ditch that ran along the road, letting them decompose naturally. When foods were washed by the rain down the road, chickens would get to them before we realized it. Problem? There was none.

But with commerce brought to us plastic bags and bottles, villagers including the Good Neighbor had the mindset that EVERYTHING they threw away was decomposable (true for centuries), thus they continued the practice of discarding plastics. When I was twelve or so I revisited the village one time, and found plastics floating down that ditch during a torrential rain, and since the Good Neighbor lived on a higher ground, these plastics got washed down to our front yard several houses away. Neighbors would then manually flush down the plastics to the drain located below the market. No one knew how much plastic accumulation had built up under the market.

The house of the Good Neighbor seemed empty last time I visited a year ago. Villagers continued to pace up and down the road flanking both sides of the house. The road on the left leads to jasmine fields, Buddhist temple and schools. The road on the right leads to the stone mill.

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