Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Using the “ladders of heaven” to get to school

By CCTV reporter Wu Haojun

We’ve probably all complained about the unbearable commute to work or school. Especially if you live in a mega-city like Beijing, with notorious traffic jams and crowded subways. If that’s the case, the following story may just cause you to be more thankful for what you have. In a remote village in central China’s Hunan province, children have to walk long distances every day just to get to school.
Despite how it looks, this isn’t a boot camp session for children, rather it’s a daily routine they take to get home from school.
The two ten-meter long hand-crafted wooden ladders, dubbed "the ladders of heaven" endearingly by local villagers, are the only way in or out of their homes neatly perched amidst the mountains in Zhangjiawan village in Hunan province.

But the catchy and graceful name doesn’t really do it justice. One misstep can easily spur tragedy.
And it’s especially risky for children.
Wu Chengxiang, local villager, said:"My daughter slipped here one time. She almost fell off but I was able to catch her."
Locals shrug off the tough trip home, saying it’s manageable.
But for newcomers not used to rugged hilly roads or the complete lack thereof, being "scared" would be an understatement.
A teacher at Longtanping School said:"I was just trembling the whole time. I dared not to look down at all."
Back home, grandparents are waiting a little longer than usual.. the "outsiders" weren’t so quick on their feet.. but grandma was just happy to see everyone get home safe.
The seniors who still call Zhangjiawan village their home say they are often worried sick about their grandchildren’s journey home everyday. As for them, they simply stopped going out.
Yang Yulan, local villager, said:"I haven’t left my home since 1989. Occasionally my daughter-in-law would carry me."
The scenery in this hilly village after a rainy day looks serene. But that also means even more dangerous travel conditions.
"Don’t be afraid, Xinxin. Dad, mom and uncle are all here."
"She probably got scared the last time here."
A modern cement road is being built by the local government to link this secluded village to the outside world.
But until that’s up and running, children here will still have to rely on the "ladders of heaven."

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