Date of this Version
Published in Honors in Practice: A Publication of the National Collegiate Honors Council, Volume 11 (2015)
Travelling from Hong Kong to Dimen, China, requires a full day. The journey begins with a metro and high-speed train ride to a modern airport in the booming manufacturing center of Guangzhou. From there an Embraer jet shoots through oversized cumulus clouds and lands on the single runway at the Liping airport in Guizhou Province. A van navigates miles of bumpy switchbacks and finally arrives at the gateway to the 300-year-old village of Dimen and to the lives of the Dong ethnic minority. A few hundred wooden buildings line the river banks and then crawl up hillsides carpeted with bamboo, cascading rice paddies, and pine forests. From sunup to sundown, seven days a week, people young and old traverse the winding streets on foot, bicycle, ox-drawn cart, and motorcycle. They are on their way to shop, attend school, fish, or cultivate their rice or vegetable fields. The afternoon might bring a mahjong match, a swim in the river, or a chance to chat with friends in a drum tower or on a bridge. Many then return to the fields. Students in University of the Pacific’s Powell Scholars Program came to this “village on the edge of time,” as the writer Amy Tan has described it, to teach elementary school children. In return they gained a rare glimpse of a place and its people that are simultaneously a part of, and apart from, China’s transformation.