Tuesday, June 17, 2008
11/12/07 "Rural China: my new home"
For the past week I have been staying with a rural Naxi family in the village of Baisha just outside of Lijiang. I'll be there for all of next week too. I know the son from when I came to Lijiang before in October. We visited him again when our whole group came to Lijiang. I was asking him some questions about Naxi culture and how tourism has been affecting it, how he feels about it all, etc. After several questions he told me that if I stayed in his village for a while I would find out what Naxi culture was. I decided that that was a good idea. So now I'm living with him, his mom, his dad, his older brother, their three dogs, the chickens, the pigs, and the cows. There is electricity, but no running water. We get our water from the communal spout which is supplied by the mountain water. We use a whole in the ground for a toilet. We use fire as our heater (and it's used often since it's November and it gets pretty cold). I haven't taken my long underware off for a week. I feel kind of gross. I tried to shower for the first time in a week at the village shower, but the water only stayed lukewarm for a minute and then went back to freezing. At least it's a sunny day with beautiful blue skies. We can see all seven snow-covered peaks of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. It's gorgeous! The daily routine has been as follows: The mom (with whom I share a room) gets up at 6:30, gets water boiling, and comes back to bed until 7:00 when she gets up for real. The dad gets up with her. They get the butter tea going (which is made with butter, egg, tea, walnuts, and just the right amount of salt). And they get the mantou (big dough rolls) steaming in the wok over the brick stove. Then they feed the animals and by 8:00 they get me up. But I've been awake on and off since 7:00 when the rooster starts to crow. By 8:30, after my face is washed and teeth brushed we eat breakfast. Normally we eat next to the stove, but this morning we ate outside with the sun on our backs. By 9:30 we're out in the fields. The past few days they have been cutting down corn stalks and grouping them, carrying them to the side of the field and then plowing the field and tilling the soil. Today is supposed to be the day they take a break while they let the soil rest before they plant tomorrow, but the mom and dad went out to the field anyways around 10:30. They normally work until anywhere between 4:00 and 6:00, but someone is always back by 4:30 or 5:00 to start dinner. They have a T.V. and so they turn that on for Xiao Li and me to watch. There's nothing we can really do to help make dinner (I ask every night). China news is a trip. A few days ago there was a story on how they are making the monastery at Lhasa fire safe (where the Dali Lama lives in Tibet). They were showing the monks playing with water hoses and water guns. It's often national coverage stories. But there are international ones too. Last night a Chinese reporter interview the Jordanian king (the interview was in English). All Chinese T.V. has subtitles since regardless of all the dialects in China, the characters are always the same. Many of the commercials are somehow connected with the upcoming Olympics. Last night I saw one where they used a clip from Forest Gump where Forest breaks free from his leg braces, and then a Chinese athlete came on to say, "Be a winner" (in Chinese). ... I laughed. Every night after the news and national weather, there is a cartoon and then the same two Drama shows. In the U.S. you have to wait for the next week to find out what happens in T.V. shows. I love it when I get to find out what happens the next day. Also, they have two episodes every night and NO COMMERCIALS! It's amazing! The commercials are in only between episodes. So, that's been my life for the past week. I needed to come into Lijiang for a couple days to do some interviews, but rest assured I found a guest house that has a room with a shower and a T.V. so I don't miss my show. Wow, even in China I get hooked on a show. The show is called 5-star hotel and all the glamor is particular enriching when I have no shower, no heater, and no opportunity to get dressed up. It's ok though. I enjoy having such a different experience. Oh yeah, and did I mention that the Naxi have their own language. So, Mandarin is all of our second language. It's a good time. After this next week, I'll go back to Shaxi, the Bai rural village. And then on to Dali (a developed city like Lijiang). And then I think I'll come back to Baisha and move into wrap up mode to make sure that I have a 40 page paper and oral presentation ready by December 7th. It'll fly by, I'm sure. I hope everyone is doing well wherever they are.