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The Water Watchers of Peizhai Village
Text by Hu Zhoumeng

 

Zhang Guixian (front) and Jia Dan beside the 5,000-cubic-meter pool in Peizhai Village. by Zhang Ruisi Jia Dan beside the 530-meter-deep well, ready to operate the water pump machine. by Zhang Ruisi

At the entrance of Peizhai Village, next to a Chinese national flag, is a wide road extending to the other end of the village. The left side of the road is lined with two-story townhouses, and on the right is a square bigger than a soccer field, featuring an exhibition center, a cultural performance area and basketball courts. A decade ago, over 100 families living in the village still inhabited ramshackle mud-brick houses and drank water from a hand-cranked well.

When strolling around the village during the day, you will only see seniors sunbathing and children playing in small groups because working-age people are busy tending greenhouse vegetables and flowers, running shops on the village’s commercial street, or working at Chunjiang Group, in which every villager holds a stake.

 

The Good Life

At 8:00 a.m., Zhang Guixian, a member of the village committee, picks up her mop in gloved hands as usual to begin cleaning the five public washrooms in the village. She visits each of them twice a day to ensure they stay tidy. Even more importantly, Zhang monitors the water supply. After cleaning, Zhang drives an electric motorcycle to a 530-meter-deep well where she pumps water into two storage tanks on the back of a hill. From there, the water flows to the townhouses and the commercial street through underground pipes. When the automatic water pump malfunctions, as it has done periodically, Zhang spends hours at the well pumping the water manually.

The water monitor also handles pipe maintenance. When a leak sprouted behind a sweet potato noodle shop, Zhang received an urgent call from her colleague Jia Dan. That day, the village was holding a sweet potato noodle festival, which had attracted merchants from near and far. A leaky pipe and limited access to water would surely put a damper on the village’s sweet potato noodle business. Zhang immediately phoned a plumber and rushed to the site.

It was already dark when the pipe was finally repaired. After seeing off the plumber, Zhang began to prepare dinner for her two granddaughters. On her way home, Zhang bought some hot porridge, steamed stuffed buns and milk tea, favorites of her granddaughters. As she set the food down in the kitchen, she reminisced about cooking over a fire in the old days. “I used to burn coal and choke on the smoke,” she recalled. “But now natural gas has replaced it. Cooking has become more convenient and affordable.” A couple of minutes after Zhang started cooking, the inviting smell of fried carrots and green peppers filled the air throughout the house.

 

 

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