The slow local train takes me through the Eastern Rift Valley to Ruisui, where at 1pm there is no-one but lazy dogs to be seen. My air B’n’b place is next to a storehouse piled high with a mountain of pomelo, the local crop here in the valley.
My host is Zola, a jolly little guy from Hunan now settled with 4 month old baby, Taiwanese wife and dog in this little town of 12000. He is radically different from any Chinese I have met before and has a laudable mission in life. Zola is developing a platform which enables the archiving of posts and pages deleted from the internet. He is particularly focussed on China where 404 errors (page not available) are the bane of the researcher on the net. He sees his work as preserving history and providing the knowledge that will facilitate informed discussions i.e. a crucial research tool.
We talk about public sphere, we talk about the Chinese govt attempting now to block VPNs. He began this line of work by blogging sensitive news, and of course ended up being censored. He tells me he never saw himself as an activist or involved in human rights until a film was made about him. I have to track this down. I would like my students to check out what he is doing. It seems he is doing something very important which could contribute to a greater sense of “truth” and transparency in China.
Meanwhile, the valley is beautiful and we check out the view with Zola’s drone.
At night I am the only bather in the murky yellow hot springs at the coco hotel. Not really the same calibre as budapest in terms of atmosphere. This is more like a designed resort. The water of my shower afterwards is red as it washes off the minerals from my body. I roll all the way down the hill for a couple of miles, keen not to break a sweat and ruin the lovely glow that my body is feeling. A full moon is climbing high above the mountains.