The International Steam Pages

Leaving (China) on a Jet Plane, 2010

For convenience I have now grouped lifestyle illustrated features by topic:

A lot of people we know (and no doubt quite a few we don't) must be asking themselves why we would give up what appears to be an idyllic country house in the mountains near the Great Wall of China for a small bungalow in Gloucestershire. It's a fair question and I tried to answer it some time ago on an earlier page.

However, what that page doesn't show is that some days are as grim as any which the Forest of Dean could throw at us. This was the view out of the bedroom window on the day before we left:

Also don't forget this house was 'made in China' and even though it is just 5 years old, the fault lines are showing. A (small) part of the roof fell off earlier this year and it took a couple of months to persuade anyone in the village to repair it and, when they did, a couple of the newly replaced tiles then fell off again the following week. Just recently, part of the top lawn turned into a mud pool when a water pipe junction 'failed'. As I type this we have water dripping into the cellar because another pipe in the kitchen has a similar problem which is less easy to sort. The garden gate has been welded back together twice in 5 years because the hinges broke and we still haven't got it fixed properly. The list is endless, it's got to the stage where we ask ourselves "What's next?" . And for the best part of six months out of twelve, Jiaojiehe is bitterly cold. Every year we have tried to battle 'the big freeze', heating the house is just a way of burning large amounts of money and it's cheaper to replace anything which has burst although with experience the bill gets smaller each year. It's time for a change.

Our last weekend in Jiaojiehe saw some of Yuehong's rather special Chinese friends come up:

What distinguishes them from the run of the mill citizen of China is that they have a passion for life and not just money. Apart from, Yuehong they are:

  • Jin Ji Zhou from Shaoxing who is a long term steam enthusiast and who is now out photographing insects as he roams China.

  • Grace (Lu)  from Beijing whom I first bumped into on a flight to Bangkok when she first decided to travel independently a few years back. A lady with 'balls'.

  • Du (Jian Bin) from Heilongjiang who shot 'Logging Off' with Yuehong. A brilliant cameraman in the Nick Lera mould, he's now filming some of the severe environmental problems in China which officially don't exist.

  • Zhao Gang from Heilongjiang who was the first Chinese steam enthusiast I ever met - in Ganhe in 2002 - and who suggested to Yuehong in Weihe that she might talk to me as I was a 'good guy'.

Now we're leaving them with the Herculean task of 'converting' the rest of the nation... As John Denver nearly wrote 'All our bags are packed, we're ready to go...', behind the teddies in the hand luggage are my key steam slides from Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand from the 1970s. They may well all be safely scanned at high resolution but they are still irreplaceable!

Rob Dickinson