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Melissa Block

Life In Transition

Zhou Hong Fang prepares a patch of land for planting. Photo: Melissa Block, NPR.

Zhou Hong Fang prepares a patch of land for planting. Melissa Block/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Melissa Block/NPR

I got my first view of a transitional housing camp yesterday - a collection of rows and rows of long, prefab shelters with blue roofs that are now home for some of the millions left homeless by the earthquake. This one was outside of Mianzhu, about two hours from the Sichuan capital, Chengdu. You can imagine that life inside these crowded camps would be wearing quite thin by now, almost a year on; people would be anxious to get into permanent homes.

It was quiet at midday - some sounds of lunch being prepared, people washing at a line of outdoor faucets. A few pieces of yellow and blue outdoor exercise equipment weren't being used when I visited, but they were nice to see - any bit of distraction or exercise must help.

I talked briefly with an older woman named Zhou Hong Fang who was busy with a hoe, digging up a small plot of land outside her shelter. The dirt she'd overturned was mixed in with a good amount of trash that had been dumped there - a plastic cup, some pieces of cloth - but she was intent on turning this bit of land into a small garden for garlic and green onions. One row away someone had planted leafy green vegetables. Small swatches of home in an impermanent place.

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