The road we live on is bookended by two major construction projects. The marina, which I’ve mentioned before, is being built on the end closer to Feng Cheng. The nuclear power plant — that thing that brought us here — is on the other in the direction of Yantai.
The projects are connected by the approximately eight kilometer long straight, paved road called He Dian Er Lu. This is an appropriate name. It translates to Second Nuclear Road. Yes, there is more than one nuclear road in these parts. You can try to Google map these ingeniously named roads, but you won’t find them. They are too new.
In between the construction projects fields full of green crops line our stretch of He Dian Er Lu. In the spring, we watched farmers prepare their small plots of land for planting. Their tools — shovels, pick axes, and non-protective clothing and shoes — were rudimentary. Sometimes cows assisted with the plowing.
Over the summer, we’ve watched the plants grow, grow, grow. In the mornings and dusky evenings we’ve seen the farmers out dutifully spraying their fields. Sky-blue plastic tanks full of insecticides or pesticides are worn like book bags on their small hunched over backs, making them easily visible among the palette of green.
Every so often a small lane, mostly dirt though one is paved, leads off away from He Dian Er Lu to a village just beyond the fields. You can see the one-story orange-red brick tile roofs from the road.
Growing crops isn’t the only kind of farming happening along He Dian Er Lu. We’ve got aquaculture — a 4,000 year old practice here in China — going on all around us. Around 6:00pm each evening, fish farmers putter around their “farms,” standing in dinghies, heaving shovels full of feed (or so I’m guessing) into small pond size bodies of water. Most of the time this is a two person job. One guy steers the boat; the other mans the shovel. One time, we saw a crafty farmer handle the nightly deed all by himself, balancing on a raft consisting of rubber tires and slabs of wood. He pulled himself across his pond using a barely visible string that spanned the length of the water. Every so often he’d drop the string, dig a burnt orange scooper into his blue bucket full of feed, and fling its contents into the water.
Who knows what kind of seafood is being bred and raised in these ponds. I’ve only been able to catch a glimpse of crabs in one. I also have no idea where or who the fish and other types of seafood being raised get sold to. We have a lot of seafood restaurants in the Haiyang area, but after reading up on Chinese aquaculture, I may have to rethink my eating habits. Thanks, New York Times, Mother Jones, and MSN.
Amidst the farm fields and fish ponds, progress has been made on two new roads over the last several months. We watched big bulldozers dig right through the farm fields. Then we watched huge red trucks haul the dirt away — a major hazard for bikers, walkers, and all the stray dogs along He Dian Er Lu. The mounds of dirt are piled high in the ginormous truck beds and excess dirt spills out over the trucks’ tops and sides. Now it looks like the roads are being leveled and I’m guessing that they will soon be paved.
The road construction, crops, and fish farms die off as you get closer to the power plant, which marks the end of He Dian Er Lu. That doesn’t make that part of the road any less busy, though. Of course there’s a lot happening at the plant itself, but outside the walls of the plant compound and at all hours of the day, you can see folks from a neighboring village crossing the street, hauling mussels and oysters from the sea back to their homes.
What can I say? We live on one busy stretch of rural Chinese roadway. On the one hand, it’s kind of neat to see all the changes happening right before our eyes. I sometimes think we are witnessing what rural folks back in the US saw in the early to mid part of the 20th century. On the other hand, it’s a bit worrisome. What will happen to all the farmers and farm land as He Dian Er Lu continues to develop? What will happen once the power plant is up and operational? Lots of changes are surely on their way, judging from the map below, which was posted alongside He Dian Er Lu earlier this summer. Note to self: get someone to translate this thing!