|http://www.sina.com.cn 2003/05/02 10:46 北京青年报|
What turned it was when Andy started puking bilesintoshis bedside bucket. That was when Ed decided to evacuate his long-suffering comrade to the nearest city for safe-keeping.
The moment both New Long Marchers had most dreaded - the onset of serious sickness - appeared to have arrived. It could hardly have happened in a worse place at a worse time. In the tiny Sichuan town of Shuikou there was no car, and a bus was out of the question.①It took five hours of patient negotiations and calling in of favors to secure a Jeep to take Andy to a one-star hotel room in Renhuai. As Ed , next door , contemplated a future solo march , Andy lay in bed exhausted, aching, wondering how it had ever come to this. Looking back, he realized that this moment had been weeks in the making. Bronchitis com-bined with the punishing schedule of the march had finally taken its toll. Andy said he would not quit; his body dis-agreed.
Andy lurched to the bathroom and spat in the toilet bowl again. "Things can only get better,"②he told himself. He settled backsintosbed and switched on the TV: It was war. A few months ago, Ed and Andy were interviewed by Yang Rui on CCTV 9 about their plan to begin a New Long March. Now Yang was announcing that two British Seaking helicopters had crashedsintoseach other, killing all aboard. Most of the dead came from a marine base in Plymouth, Andy's hometown, a placeswhereshe went swim-ming as a child.
But these young men were by no means the first vic-tims.③Watching CCTV 9's round-the-clock coverage, we heard the Iraqi information minister announce, "Everything you hear here is the truth." A few hours later it was his American counterpart speaking: "What you hear here is the absolute truth to the best of our knowledge."
"Everything we hear is total bullshit," said Ed. "Let's get back on the road."
Back in Shuikou, Andy's health revived if not restored, we step offsintosthe sunshine and return to a worldswhereswar is something foreigners do on TV. Peasants wade knee deep in mud, coaxing water buffalo to pull ploughs. Rape fields sway in the breeze as children skip hand-in-hand to a school five kilometres from their home.
Andy's girlfriend calls to say she might cancel a visit because she is too busy at work on account of the war. BBC and Sky News both say they cannot come to our press con-ference in Guiyang because the war comes first. Other media reps begin to drop out.
And who can blame them? For it seems meaningless to march at a time like this, to talk about press conferences or interviews or any of the thousand trivial matters that Tracy Jia, our project coordinator, raises for our attention on the road to Guiyang. Andy hasn't the stomach for it.
Tracy and Ed look after most of the preparations and the whole thing goes off without a hitch. Thankfully, nobody mentions the you-know-what.④
But back in the countryside, there is no escape. "Yi-la-ke" joins "laowai", "bu zuo che?" and "zenma gao!" in the PeasantsandWorkersPhrasebook. We stay with a peasant in his home in Zhangjiawan, a Zunyi county moun-tain village. There is no road to this place. There are no telephone lines. The electricity was connected just three years ago and our host has no TV. Yet he asks - in great detail - why we are fighting Iraq. We have a clumsy ex-planation about the differences between nations, govern-ments and peoples, but Wang Xiang appears unconvinced. These three things have been made inseparable, and it seems we must answer for "our" country's sins.
"China has a different government to your developed nations. China is different to your nation. We are a peaceful nation," says Wang.
Before the war a middle-school student looked at our 25-kilo rucksacks and combat-green gear and asked us if we were soldiers. For the last month, British and American soldiers have been shooting at Iraqis 24 hours a day on Chinese national TV.
Walking down a dusty footpath towards Ganxi, Andy stops to ask a passing peasant the way.
She runs for her life.
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