During the Cultural Revolution
Away from Heaven Mountain
They were friendly, but I still felt that l had been tricked, and I wanted to go home. I waited three days, but still no vehicle could take me. So I decided to try and walk. I took some money and medicines with me in a cotton bag, some trousers and shoes, and was dressed as a soldier (that was the fashion then). I started at 10 am in the morning, very happy. The sun was shining and I met nobody for 20 km. But then my clothes became damp and cold with sweat, my feet got blisters and started to hurt. I had to keep walking as there was nowhere to rest. The sky became black and still there were no houses in sight. I was hungry and felt weak but had to keep walking.
Some distance further on I saw some buildings and decided to ask if they might have a room for me to sleep in. The first was lit and I knocked on the door; the person who answered was about fifty and belonged to the Huai Islamic minority. He let me in. I told him I was director of a hospital in Urumqi and was on my way home, but had already walked 30 km today. It was impossible for me to go on. And I asked if it would it be possible for me to sleep there?
'You can sleep in the stable' the owner said. I was shocked. 'Oh my God, I have to sleep in a stable like Christ!' We started arguing. During the discussion I heard coughing from a corner of the room. I saw a girl standing, coughing loudly. I asked the man why he didn't get a doctor, as the girl was obviously ill.
- 'We have no money’ he answered.
- 'But treatment is free' I replied.
- That's true but you need to pay one jiao (1 pence) for the registration fee.'
- 'You cannot pay one jiao?’
- 'During the six years of your Cultural Revolution we peasants have
been working very hard but have no money to buy food – how would we have money for treatment?'
- 'Shall I treat her? You don't need to pay me.' I said.
- 'Yes, please do.' The man replied.
I had some instruments and medicines in my bag. I took out my stethoscope and checked her condition. She had flu with some fever. I gave her some medicine and told her the dosage. After I had closed my bag I checked my watch and said: ‘It is past eleven o'clock, I need to go.'
The man said: 'Go! No, you can sleep here.' He pointed to their bed heated with bricks and said: There it is warm, it is my space.'
That night eight people slept on that brick heated bed - but there was room for more. I was so tired I slept until noon. The owner was waiting with some lunch, and the quality of the food was good enough to greatly honour a guest.
After lunch, I put some money on the table and said goodbye to the whole family. The man at first refused the money but afterwards I insisted and he was very happy with it. As I left, a truck passed and the driver happened to recognise me. He stopped and I went home with him.