It’s a national bank holiday today and the village market has come alive with the activity and bustle of chickens, natter to family from elderly folk with babies in arms and the clanging of woks.
It’s the busiest it’s been so far here, in this hotch-potch assemblage of farmland, dried up riverbed and ex-pat resort meets medieval China. The stunning national park and hydroelectric power station although not completely out of sight (odd tube up mountain slope may be spotted), they seem remote and distant. This hints at the dynamics of this supposed eco-tourist village destination. After quite an arduous journey from Hong Kong by bus via a short stay at the Home Inn, Guangzhou-the capital of industrial Guangdong capital- I have returned.
We still haven’t met the illustrious Mr Chen, the visionary behind the ‘eco’ development of Nanling- we’re awaiting a visit for his own words. In the meantime, we’re cobbling meetings with various corners of the village as best we can to try and understand the make-up here–from a farm owner, director of the plush Orange Hotel manager (at which we are staying), Forest Bureau Director, and soon a local school teacher and hopefully local savant, a man in his eighties who ran out of his tiled house to “hello, welcome!” me. I think he had been waiting fifty years to belt out his joyous practice of textbook English. Of course there was the international art programme two years ago that left the inhabitants and development company dubious of future hope of art practice and it’s positive impact through engagement with surroundings and people. I am not sure how much a pair of curtains and overly designed tree houses can really address the complexity of the issues rubix-cubed together here.
On simplistic terms, the village can be divided into two halves; the development company who are pushing for a tourism that benefits the villagers and village itself are on separate banks. I am sat currently on the east on a balcony with my wi-fi and guilt knowing that on the East there’s a lot of poverty tourism for which it would all be too easy to develop a Cannibal tour. Indeed it has been cringeworthy at times when the English lot have gasped at the chicken heads beady eye, or questioned toilet positions, I know them and yet am so far from fluent in language and manner that I feel all the more at odds, especially when local begins to converse and I am happy to know that my imaginative tones and tweaks of Cantonese can get me by in Mandarin. To be expected. Indeed, the canyon separating the haves and nots can all too easily lead us to dehumanise the Development agency as the puppeteer. The ‘selected’ restaurants-10 x the yuan of village eaterie- we have a regular scar faced chef superieur at about two quid a feast- and accommodation endorsed by them are outwardly and behaviourally apart. Few villagers come this way, shoulderbag is here not bag on stick, as well as literacy and computer skill- but speaking to hotel manager and forest bureau suggest a more altruistic loss of breadcrumb rather than any dark red motive which would be so much easier to jump to.
Supported by the area’s Development agency we are told that general hierarchy here is running order of agriculture, village and people; to stay in the village with a farmer would have been unfathomable. That might be why farming methods seem efficiently at a standstill but the drive to make this an eco-tourist site is proving tenuous… only 10 percent of income here is generated by tourism and 70% by the hydroelectric power stations nearby.
Also, how about linking what to see with the community here and perhaps a little tidying up. Accessibility, financing, tradition … everything interlinks and the component question suddenly spider webs into the vast span of the history, politics and sociology of China. So what do we apply and how do we translate community engaging practice into a useful, non-self assuming imposition of the better way without resorting to imbalanced social work from Brits with distant generational or genetic links that appear to have come in handy? (Bryan please stop humming that anthem since your implications are heavy, or maybe I should lighten up and get the stunt head on??) This is exemplified also by our head stretching discussions yesterday, at points I found myself at the stalemate… but they already invented that dynasties ago? Through this though we are starting to edge towards a longer term strategy for Nanling. The roll out of a cleaning project for the village is my line of thinking but there’s a long march ahead- for day three, English lessons is perhaps not such a useless way to begin afterall.
Last winter there was also a devastating snow storm which evidently demolished many of the trees protected in this area with natural deforestation, not the best tourist postcard. However, the journalists we met yesterday indicated interest in this area for that very reason. Yesterday I arranged to find out more about the forest manager’s role, and followed him and his three work colleagues up into the mountains. Vertigo and rapid ascendance and descent up hair-raisingly narrow steps and steep drops aside, it was conservation in action and heart warming to see surveillance and hands on care for the forest in action.
There are a lot of parallels to be drawn physiologically with the Lake District as well Grizedale's ambitions with Lower Parkamoors and Lawson Park. For now I am within untypical Chinese Nanling version and with the others am finding my way.
Topics: [Nanling Village Ecotourism Resort]