20080605: 3 weeks after the earthquake

3 weeks after the quake and life is gradually returning to normal in Chengdu, for those who have not been directly affected (bereavement, lost house, lost factory, lost office). www.sichuan-quake-relief.org have been sending aid up into some remoter/more ignored parts of the earthquake disaster zone and I’ve been along twice, once to help deliver food (rice, apples, hua jiao, soya milk powder, milk formula for babies), and the second time to help deliver ‘hygiene packs’. These are a black bin bag containing a large plastic bowl (OK for washing your face, doing dishes etc), sanitary pads (huge smiles of relief for those), toothbrush and toothpaste, soap, washing powder, dynamo torches, mosquito coils, a pack of playing cards and some other small items.  Derek and (aaargh, forgotten name) had put together 1200 of these this time, having assembled several hundred of them previously.

SQR/The Bookworm (www.chengdubookworm.com) arrange one-tonne trucks with drivers. Last Sunday we were in a convoy of 2 trucks and a Jeep, and reached villages which had simply collapsed. Almost everyone is living in a tent city/town/village now, with some temporary, Portakabin-looking structures erected in some places for the local central admin.  Water and rice deliveries/supplies seem to be getting through. Now people’s minds must be turning to deciding what to do in the future. For those who have fields/farms, rebuilding their homes must seem like a reasonable option. For those who do not have this direct economic connection, it’s time to decide if the pull of ‘home’ is strong enough to prevent migration to a city or nearby town. Other factors play a role in migration, such as the ‘hukou’ – registration in a particular district which gives access to education, services, ID etc.

Many people have said that seeing the devastation/rubble/disaster/collapsed towns has made them reconsider their priorities and that’s been true of friends here.