Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Village 2

Steve and I left Village 1 with a better idea of where and when to drop VCD's. With some experience under our belts, our nervous anxiety gave way to excitement. We had devised a system in which I stocked Steve with VCD's from my hip pack and he made the majority of the drops by pulling them subtly out of his spacious side pockets. I didn't feel left out. We had to get rid of over 300 VCD's, so I had plenty of chances.

Not far down the road, we saw a hodge-podge of shabby homes and shops we assumed to be Village 2. Directly on the left side of the village's main artery was a basketball court occupied by nothing but a lot of sand. I walked out into the middle of the court, making dribbling and shooting motions. Some of the onlookers smiled at my youthful spirit, but no one dared offer me a ball or challenge me to a game of one on one. They kept their distance, still unsure of what I was doing in their neck of the woods.

I rejoined Steve on the road, and we began to walk into the village. Just then, a motorcycle pulled up with baskets sagging on either side, full of some type of green melon. The tires of the bike depressed with the weight. The young boy and girl riding stopped next to us and offered us some of their produce. At first I refused, but Steve, ever adventurous, gladly accepted. The boy took out a long knife and sliced one in half, handing it to Steve. Watching him eat, I realized how hungry I was, and I stole a slice of Steve's. The melon was sweet and refreshing, especially after all the walking we had done so far.

The boy didn't make it clear whether he was giving the melons to us or expecting payment for them. Steve decided it was the least we could do to give him 10 yuan, probably a day's wages for a lowly melon vendor. As Steve handed him the crinkled 10, the boy did not object. He simply grabbed it and stuffed it in his pocket. If he had intended the melon as a gift, the customary response to Steve's offer would have been a polite, but firm rejection of payment. Since he accepted so easily, I was firm in my conclusion that this guy sold melons for a living.

The melon man restarted his motorcycle and sputtered off, waving as he kicked up dust on the village's main street. Steve and I followed his trail, looking for suitable places to make drops. The village consisted of one long path with alleys branching off like the tributaries from a large river. The villagers sitting outside on the street stared at us as we strolled by. They didn't smile. Some of them even looked frightened. I felt a little bit like a prisoner being led on a parade of shame through the city. Even our customary greetings did little to lighten the mood.

Hmmm, I thought, This is pretty creepy. I wondered what made the people here so closed off to our presence. With their eyes glued to us, we couldn't make many drops, so each of us prayed silently for the fog of darkness to be lifted from this place. After exploring for a few more minutes, we made a few quick drops by some trash heaps and left the same way we had come in, suspicious eyes tracing our every step.

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