i just got back from Beichuan a few minutes ago. Beichuan was near the epicenter of the earthquake, so most of the villages in that area were destroyed or flooded. I met groups of people from Xuan Ping — a village near Beichuan that was flooded — scattered throughout the disaster area.

One man was building semi-permanent drywall dwellings in Dujiangyan and fell off of a roof. He was recuperating in the field hospital set up by the German Red Cross.

Another woman was nursing her baby in Mianyang’s Jiu Zhou stadium with the rest of the Beichuan refugees — 50,000 of them on the 18th, now down to 4000 — while her husband was working buildings dwellings in Mianyang.

Outside of Beichuan itself, Xuan Ping locals were rushing in and out of the “quake lake” area scavenging clothes, crops and other useful things in preparation for flooding that might occur soon. With thunderstorms brewing in Sichuan after a week of sultry days, the dam might just break this weekend.

I also met a Daoist monk outside of Beichuan in Huangtu Village whose house was destroyed. He was waiting patiently for the government to solve other more pressing issues — like possible flooding — before they got around to him and his family.

It is ironic that everyone is really impressed with the organization and efficiency of the relief effort. I have been here for eight years and although China has grown exponentially — and Chengdu with it — I always considered this place to be bordering on chaos, with red tape, corruption and outright laziness putting a damper on what could have been even more explosive growth.

There is a difference between the chilled out bureaucratic wrangling of the day-to-day life in China and the focused zeal with which Chinese carry out national projects and goals.

Beichuan refugees are now also being sent en masse to factories in Shandong and Guangdong Provinces to work and make money while the rebuilding phase takes over. Many of their children are also being sent to other provinces to continue their all-important studies.

It is raining in Chengdu.

“If it keeps on raining, the levee’s gonna break, if the levee breaks, momma we got to go …”

Sascha Matuszak
Sascha Matuszak

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