Aba Autonomous
Prefecture

NW Sichuan, China
Friday        October 8, 2004        5:40PM

A time for vacation, but got stuck doing research....

The National Holiday is a time for site-seeing, travel, returning home to visit family and
friends, and catching up on work that's been put off; it's one week where everyone
seems to all get up at the same time and head out all at once! It was a mad house in
Chengdu and the surrounding counties as half of our research team headed out for field
work at the Aba Prefecture.
It was certainly an experience I can draw a lot from in terms of knowing what to
expect for future expeditions and field research, but the first time always stings a bit.

On the morning of Oct. 1st, I woke up at 5:30am to take a shower and to make sure I
had everything I needed for five days in the Southwest mountains of Sichuan Province.
At 6:50, one of Prof. Zeng's graduate students came to pick me up. We were then
joined by Professor Zeng himself, his wife and daughter, and another one of his grad
students. Six other members of the research team had already left the day before to set
up so there were 12 of us total on this trip.
The bus terminals were packed with people heading to various regions of Sichuan with the most prominent being Jiu Zai Gou.
Apparently this place was a real hot spot because of the fall color that's supposedly at its prime this time of year. That and Mt.
Emei are probably the most packed and most popular places to visit during the national holiday, I heard. Even if Aba wasn't one
of the big names, Prof. Zeng had made arrangements to get our tickets early so we avoided long lines and restless crowds in the
terminal.

Bus rides in China can be a nightmare, but in a way, it takes me back to my childhood riding the bus from province to province
in the Philippines. There are always so many people, not enough seats, disgusting odors and people that just have no respect for
property and other fellow bus riders. Sure, this can seem like Seattle METRO bus from time to time; but, throw in several
smokers and the fact that you're with these people for the whole day versus going from the UW to Downtown Seattle, it's pretty
bad. And when nature calls, you're basically in deep sh..yeah. Luckily, there are rest stops from time to time, but it's just
aggravating at times especially if you've just arrived and experiencing some stomach and digestion issues. Remember Wolong??
After that experience, I figured that I could deal with such conditions. Apparently not.
The first bus on the way to this region just about 300km from Tibet was not a
pleasant experience at all. Even though we has the first few seats in the front,
they had to hassle and argue for us to get these seats and from the little
Chinese I could understand, one of their arguments was the fact that I was an
American and that I had to have the front seat behind the driver who smoked
the whole way to Aba. I just sat there quietly as this woman threw a fit and
stormed towards the rear of the bus. She was probably better off. They have
assigned seating, but with enough quarreling, you can basically sit wherever
you'd like. I'm not the one to bitch about where I want to sit like some
people; so, they just pointed at me to sit and I just sat! No questions asked.

Traffic was unbelievably packed heading out of Chengdu. Vehicle after
vehicle, bumper to bumper rush hour traffic! Teams of cars with their own
designated logos and car number packed the main highways and, of course,
street vendors took advantage of the stopped cars offering items from
steamed corn on the cob to handmade crafts and jewelry. So I managed to
hold it together for what was suppose to be a 6-7 hour bus ride until the bus
croaked after we had lunch. I took the time to get out of the bus to use the
restroom (was able to recognize the characters for bathroom, male and
female. I was so proud! haha) and chat with the few in the group that could
speak English. Then, we were told that the crew couldn't find out what the
problem was yet they still continued to remove parts from the rear of the bus
and start pounding at it with a hammer. Professor Zeng started to get irritated.
After about two hours, they supposedly "fixed" the problem and were on our
way again. After another two hours, I checked my altimeter and noticed an
elevation near 3000m. With the driver's window open, we certainly felt the
freezing air. During one rest stop, we all got out to stretch a bit, experience
the cold, and enjoy the view of snow capped mountains in the distance. It was
quite exciting to hear that that'll be our destination in a few hours. So we
hopped back on the bus shivering and carried on. Nighttime came quite
suddenly and I looked out the window to see my good friend the moon
making a stunning entrance among brightly lit stars I haven't seen in over a
month! After a brief and uncomfortable nap on the bus, I looked out onto the
hillside and noticed snow! All I was thinking was, "Oh lord, we've got to be
here already!" And, of course, we weren't. It wasn't until 10PM that we
arrived to a highly urbanized city. It was quite a dramatic transition from snow
covered mountains to this city of lights and endless signs of China Mobile
plastered everywhere. It was freezing cold, but we found a warm restaurant
for a late dinner and teamed up with the rest of the research team at our
accommodation for the night.
Photographs and Site Contents Copyright © Rizaniño H. Reyes. All rights reserved