I'm back. I'm back from a week of wonder. I set out on a journey to Lijiang and Lugu Lake unsure really of what I was in for.
I'd say the journey began the day before I actually left Kunming. I suddenly fell ill the day before I was supposed to leave on a week long trek by myself. I had a wonderful healing through the course of the day, but new physical challenges continued to arise. With every turn I gave it all to God. I knew that my trip was the right thing for me to do and that although I was not going to be with any one else in my group, I was not alone either. I had no choice but to entrust every aspect of the trip to God. That's the way it should have been regardless, but this was my first lesson to learn. I knew that I had what I needed for the moment and I didn't need anything more. When the next moment arrived I would have what I needed then. So away I went on a 10 hour bus ride from Kunming to Lijiang. Two other girls from my group were going to the same vicinity as me, so we were on the same bus and had arranged to stay in the same guest house in Lijiang. We met someone on the bus who upon our arrival in Lijiang offered to drive us to the guest house which was on the other side of town from the bus station. That was really nice that we avoided the Taxi. I really didn't know much about Lijiang before I got there. All I knew was that I wanted to go to Lugu Lake and I had to go through Lijiang to do it. I realized very quickly how wonderful Lijiang is. It's beautiful and quaint and the perfect place to come for a week. The guest house we stayed in was the home of a young couple. Their home is placed in Ancient town which has a river and stream running through it. There's a 2,000 year old bridge that still stands and people walk over it every day. I decided that I couldn't help but stay in Lijiang for a few days. The next day I hung out with the other girls. We had lunch at a good little restaurant, outside, right by the river side. It was blissful. Then we met up with a local Naxi guy (the indigenous people of Lijiang). He was our age, but had a well developed knowledge of his people's history and knew of good places to take us. At the end of the day he took us back to his farm house where the puppy ate the grain with the piglets out a tire cut in half. There were chickens and cows and goats. Their small traditional Chinese house had been in the family for 200 years, and had never been repaired. We met his family and they were the nicest people. They invited us to stay for dinner and spend the night so that we didn't have to travel back to our guest house 15 minutes away. They offered me some sugared mangoes. FYI, if mangoes have been sitting in sugar for a really long time they ferment and they become super alcoholic. I didn't know what I had put into my mouth until I did. It tasted like the smell of Bissman on a Friday night. Yikes. Nevertheless, the whole experience was entirely enriching. The girls I was with are both Chinese-American and are fluent in Chinese, so they could communicate with everyone and occasionally translate for me. It made me wish my Chinese were better. That night the girls and I walked around the quaint Old Town (different from Ancient Town). There were lots of tourists there, but for good reason. It has the traditional architecture, red lanterns, and lively activities all the time. There are cute shops and restaurants all through town and it also has a little river running through it. It's more popular than Ancient Town because it's right next to downtown. If anyone ever wants to go to China, I recommend Yunnan province first and Lijiang in particular. This week is the national Chinese vacation week. So everyone who works in China has the week off. Even with the large number of tourists that went to Lijiang, the city still wasn't crazy populated. The next day I stayed behind while the other girls hiked all morning to a lake. Feeling ready to branch out on my own, I bought my bus ticket to Lugu Lake and spent the day with my roommate at the guest house who is from Hong Kong. She goes by Isabelle. We got along really well and she helped me navigate the buses in the city, which would be useful later in the trip when I needed to get around by myself. Also, having stayed behind that day I had the morning to mark my lesson for the week. It was so nice to have that time before I headed out on my own (with out the language crutch of my friends). Come the next day I stepped out of the courtyard doors and knew that I was embarking on a new journey in my life. I got myself to the bus station and onto my bus and all the way to Lugu Lake. The bus ride took 8 hours—8 hours of winding through the mountains and villages. It was so beautiful. Mostly the mountain roads are cobblestone and in America they would qualify as 1-lane roads, but they're two-lanes and big buses can pass big farm trucks and no one falls off the mountain—barely. But it was fun. The bus driver drives that road every other day and knows what he's doing. I was in the habit of trusting. I didn't worry about it. The girl sitting beside me started not to feel well during the trip, so I silently supported her, simply reclaiming all the same truths about order, harmony, and supply that I had been claiming for myself in preparation for this trip. In particular, Mrs. Eddy's seven hymns came to mind, so I went through those one by one. They are all so wonderful, both comforting and empowering. The girl was certainly relieved to get off the bus when we got to Lugu Lake, but I can't help but trust that my prayers were effective on some level. I found a youth hostel that I could stay at which was very reasonably priced. The communal bathrooms in the back of the building were less than pleasant. Oh well. You get in you get out and don't breathe in the mean time. I got to experience some very rural bathrooms. As gross as they were, I still think it's better to have a building with several messy squat holes than a confined, poorly ventilated Johnny on the Spot in the States. My roommate at the hostel was from Spain. She appreciated it when I exclaimed in Spanish how happy I was that she was from Spain because I've that meant I could finally speak Spanish. Although my Spanish has a limit, I know far more Spanish than Chinese and so often when I don't know how to say something in Chinese it comes out in Spanish, but that doesn't help me much. Now someone could understand me. Also, she wasn't feeling well, but that's because she was recovering from a hang over from drinking the night before. She didn't speak any Chinese, so I got her out of the room and got her a nice meal to eat. The young couple who owned the guest house in Lijiang had a friend who had a guest house in a quiet village on the other side of the lake, so I called him and he arranged to have a car come pick me up the next day for free. So the next day, I got up early to watch the sunrise, but to no avail, it was cloudy in the morning. The hostel was literally at the water's edge, so I sat outside and read my lesson and wrote in my journal. As the morning progressed, more and more people arrived at the lake (vacation week, remember). The Chinese are such curious people. They would come up about a yard from me trying to figure out what I was doing, or maybe they wanted to watch me write in English. I'm not sure. Finally a group of little girls stood behind me for a while and eventually I turned around, they said hello in English and when I said, "hi, ni hao." They giggled and ran away. Ten minutes later they returned, the older girl of the three in front. I turned around to them and the older girl turned back to the younger girls and the younger girls prompted the older girl. "How are you?" She asked me, practicing her English. "I'm good," I replied, "and you? Ni ne?" saying everything in both English and Chinese. We exchanged names and I asked them if they'd write the characters of their names for me. They were so excited. Then we said goodbye. It was adorable. By lunchtime the car came a got me. It was a beautiful drive to the other side of the lake. The guest house was perfect. My room looked out on the lake and for the first time in a long time I had a room to myself. Lugu Lake is known as the home of the Mosuo people, the last standing Matriarchal society. This guest house was a Mosuo home, but because of it's nature as a guest house, it wasn't a true representation of the culture. This house belonged to both a man and a woman and it was more of an equal partnership than one gender being more prominent than another. After lunch, which I helped prepare just because I wanted to interact with the people, I went with a few local people and their friends who were visiting for the week to the local Mosuo school. It's called a hope-school and is based off of donations from outside the community since the community doesn't have much money. That may be why tourism is flaring up so quickly. The villages can easily make more money by sporting their culture. Unfortunately, in the process the culture gets watered down if not entirely altered. Also, tourism can often have negative repercussions on the environment. Anyways, this Mosuo school has three small buildings, a kitchen, some computers, and books and school supplies, all donated. It's really incredible for the community. There are about 10 children. They were so adorable. I took lots of pictures. With every picture taken they would say, "wo xiang kan!" I want to see. The next day at the lake I went with a group of seven kids from Chengdu, Sichuan China all about the same age as me. We hiked the mountain behind the guest house. I think I basically rock climbed the mountain. It was so steep. But once I got to the top and I could see the whole lake and all the way into Sichuan province. It was incredible. Then we took the cable car down. The cool mountain air blew through my hair and across my face with the lake and mountains in view the whole way down. It was bliss. I spent the rest of the day with that group and we all became good friends. I'm now more than welcome in Chengdu. The next day I got myself back to Lijiang. Again on the bus, I had some metaphysical work to do to handle my thought for those around me. I had such wonderful inspiration and spiritual growth through the metaphysical work I had done all through the trip, but especially this last bus ride, I made a break through. I finally got to the point where I was asking God to show me his harmony. I wasn't willing myself to pray and break through material sense. I am a reflection of Mind and it is my natural right to see the fullness of God. In the lesson, in Psalms, there was a lot about meekness or asking God to show the way, "to open thou mine eyes." The trip got extended by 2-3 hours because our normal route was blocked by rocks fallen from the mountain, so I had extra time to look out at the mountains and ponder the ideas I coming to understand. Finally back in Lijiang I stayed at the guest house again and had my own room this time. I lied back in bed and just exhaled. What a trip! I began the trip in a way that looked liked I was barely hanging on. But really, I was only barely holding on to materiality and holding closer and closer to God. What a blessing. I'm discovering a whole new world both literally as I explore new physical destinations and mental destinations. I feel like I'm seeing the world in a new light every day. It's wonderful.