Traveling China

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Traveling China

  1. 1. CONTENTS 1 Pg 1 From Grey Buildings to the Grey Wall By Sidney Choi As a travel writer who’s roots are planted in China, every time I’m assigned to travel to someplace... Pg 6 Nation of the Yellow Devil By Danny Cho 17 Sweat dripping down my neck, going down following the path... 6 Pg 9 The Roof of the World By Henny Horensky Clambering up stone step after stone step to the roof of the world 9 was no easy feat... Pg 17 Village of Dirt By Mike Baik I gasped as the hot air filled my lungs...
  2. 2. Villagers posing in festive clothing From Grey Buildings to the Green Outdoors. As a travel writer who’s roots are planted in China, every time I’m assigned to travel to someplace a few hours away from Beijing my hands start to shake and my brain turns my body into a time bomb ready to explode when the time comes to find out more about one of my home’s minorities. Although I can say that I have honestly never have had a night as restless as last night. After just a few weeks of planning, I was done with all my packing and I was up and ready to go visit the Western side of Yunnan where most of the Jingpo people lived –a destination I had been looking forward to see by eye for quite a while. The most I’ve learned about their culture and customs was some proper etiquette. For example; when you’re a visitor in a Jingpo family’s house, you should not stand and look all around but should instead sit with your legs crossed. Although I had all that online and hopefully completely correct 1 information read and memorized, unfortunately for me, I hadn’t looked into the transportation as thoroughly as I should’ve and in the very early hours of the day, my jaw dropped at the sight of an aged rusty old bus, which look like it had been dented with crowbars or had suffered one too many minor car crashes. This was the transportation I paid for? At this point it didn’t matter for I was still going. By the time the bus pulled onto the dirt of our destination, my legs have never ached this bad before. But my friends had been right; the west side of Yunnan is one absolutely lavishly leafy place. I happily hoped off the bus along with the rest of the passengers who let out similar sighs of relief and happiness, as they were also just as glad as I to let their own legs move about but boy, was it warm. I struggled with my backpack as I desperately tried to remove my jacket in a hurry, hoping to take off the extra clothing before I could sweat even more. While the other visitors stretched out their backs and got their remaining bags from under the bus, I let my eyes gaze around at my surroundings. There were tall lean trees with noticeable roots growing around the brown trunks that looked like they had been gently rested on top of the now slightly wet soil. When I turned around, I could see about half of the mountains that stood there, the tips of the large triangles poking the low clouds just
  3. 3. by a bit. My heart was eagerly pumping faster than normal and I had reached a whole new level of excitement. The first thing I heard was a clinking sound of thin metal gently knocking into each other. Turning around, my eyes focused on the forest clearing as two families (I presumed they were families since there was two women and two men and a younger man who stood besides them) popped out wearing red and black, which I believed were traditional colors. The women had large silver chains with something like tiny silver plates hanging on to the delicate silver in the shape of a half folded bandana while the men smiled warmly at us, dressed in half torso black colored jackets. It took me a while to realize that all of them had swords looped onto their belts for I had spent the full minute admiring the women’s silver earrings and bangles which were just as intricate as the designs on their hand woven skirts. One of the men had a Muntjac slung –which I assumed would be dinner that night- over his shoulder with the same amount of pride of a young lion who just killed it’s first prey. Even though I was quite confused on how it was warm down near the trees while the Himalayas in the background were covered in snow I shrugged it off and tugged open my bottle, taking another swig from my water now lukewarm from the humid air. With our bus now chugging away back, we all put our attention on our hosts once again and everyone who had nothing to carry helped those with hand baggage as we trudged through the trees together, following the brightly colored dressed women and men who had offered to help carry some of the extra baggage. The first thing I saw in the village was the four large painted wood slabs that stood in the middle of the oblong shaped modern houses that circled this particular centerpiece. I could also tell that agriculture was the way of life for the Jingpo people for they scrambled around the village in a disordered line coming from the crop fields with baskets full of mainly dry rice. There was also a lot of corn lined in long rows outside most of the houses. Also there were a few traditional houses I glanced at along the way to the host’s living 2
  4. 4. 3 quarters. Immediately I could tell that it was made of bamboo and although it was quite a sturdy structure, it looked like it would need rebuilding perhaps after maybe 5-7 years. Inside there were two floors with resting cattle on the first. The male host pointed at the top floor and motioned at his family and then put his hands and head in a sleeping position to tell me that that floor was made for the family to sleep on but now it seemed like only the animals took up this space and that the people now slumber separately. When we entered the host’s home, I quickly glanced around at the interior. Inside there was a few small sawed off trunks of wood and the smell of medicinal herbs was wavering through a basket in the corner. As the rest of the group quickly settled themselves down into chairs, the other hosts came out of a room offering us wine and cigarettes which the men gladly took while the women hesitated before politely taking just the wine bottle. In the corner of the supposed living space was a small pile of cotton woven products in the colors blue, red, and black. The host picked up a bucket of what I recognized was Madder Roots and pointed at the mountains from her house window as she tried to explain that the dye used for the wool (used for weaving clothes, etc.) was natural and that the roots used to make the red dye had come from the Himalayan Mountains themselves. From the opposite window I could see the cash crops being picked by a group of brightly dressed villagers. It must be quite useful having plenty of fresh food just next door all the time. Our hosts brought us outside to a wooden dining table and eagerly set out different dishes at an incredibly fast pace. While I enjoyed my bowl of fresh picked rice and muntjac meat - which probably was caught earlier on during the dayeveryone else had started on dessert. Little did the tourists know, that the rice cake they were all happily enjoying had been mushed up with ants from the forest. There were two English speakers at the village that had taken on the language after their ancestor’s who were one of the first in the minority to have started to practice Christianity. One had showed up at the dinner and told us about how the Jingpo people originated from the Qinghai-Xizang Plateau but had to migrate due to the fact that there was snow all year round in their then current area and that most of the food that fed village were grown vegetables couldn’t grow there. So they moved to West Yunnan’s Dehong, for its warm climate so that it was easier to harvest their food but some of them split up along the way, which is why small groups of their people are scattered around the world with even some residing in India. When dinner was over and everyone had helped clean up the trash and the plates, we all walked around the village area, hoping to explore and learn just a bit more before getting a good nights rest. I could already tell that the Jingpo people – also known as the Dashan people (which means big mountain- people), move where the food is. It was a bonus that there was forest nearby their village, which supplies them with more animal meat apart from their usual cattle herds and some subtropical fruits along with their crops from their large crop fields which grow rapidly and easily thanks to the rainy weather. Other than that, the wood from the forests was well used to make the houses and to make the enormous colorful centerpiece that stood straight, which towered way over my head. Soon after my eyes grew heavy and I headed back to the host’s house and fell asleep a lot faster than expected. Instead of the expected sunlight that I assumed would’ve woke me up in the morning, my hearing was greeted with the sounds of loud chatter and laughing. Once I had gotten out of bed and changed it had changed from simple talking to loud footsteps and chorused singing. I lightly splashed the slightly warm water gently on my tired face that my hosts most likely had gotten A modern form of the traditional Munao Poles
  5. 5. from the nearby Nanxiu river, to wake my tired eyes before I stepped outside to find the biggest crowd I’ve seen in my life. Red, black, with a touch of blue and white, was swirling everywhere as the women danced while swishing their skirts all while following the dance leader who was like the conductor conducting the orchestra of dancers. Turbans were on the elderly as they sang along with the dancers. They all danced around the 4 Munao Poles singing in what I guessed were the Jingpo Language. I moved closer to the wooden poles, to find out that the colored paint was pictures of the Himalayas, crop, and livestock along with some patterns such as repeating squares that showed the migration and environment of their people. The female English speaker from last night’s dinner waved at me from the opposite side of the Munao Pillar and told me all about the festival, the reason why the Jingpo villagers hold this large dance/sing-a-long called the Munao Festival was to celebrate their last good harvest and to pray for success for their future crops. I laughed along with her as she told me this happened annually and lasted 2-3 days usually. What fun it would be to do this non-stop for a few days straight. All of a sudden out of the blue, the host appeared out from the crowd and grabbed me into a dance line that I happily joined into. For about 2 full hours I was dancing non-stop as the villagers danced happily around me to get rid of the evil and bad spirits that may affect their season’s crops. When it reached 6 pm, my watch buzzed and I slumped my shoulders. Staying here longer would’ve made me ecstatic but it was time to go. Grabbing my belongings, I rushed out from the forest after waving a quick goodbye once again just in time to dash through the forest and reach the same vehicle that had brought me here in the first place. I waved goodbye to the few passengers I slightly chit chatted with on the way back and promised to call them some time soon and stepped off the bus. Coming back to civilization just seemed unbelievably weird even as someone who has lived in the suburban areas for practically a whole lifetime. After spending nearly two full days out and about in settings that sadly don’t exist in the midst of Beijing’s company buildings, light up signs above dark, strobe lighted dance clubs, and open spaced shopping malls, it was slightly 4 saddening when I suddenly realized how different this city was compared to the Jingpo village. While the villagers there adapt and depend on their climate and surroundings for a good hunting/farming season without damaging their environment, here everything was modified to fit everyone’s needs even if it meant tearing away pieces of precious Earth to build factories or outdoor outlets. Change isn’t all the good after all even if it is beneficial to one half of the cause. - Sidney Choi Economic Map (shows minority names) Two maps comparing how climate in the Dehong region affects the Jingpo People’s choice of crops and ways of living. Climate Map (shows minority names)
  6. 6. Made and sold in Taiwan n' s me in K ng lia ao K Currently sold and made in both China and Taiwan due to popularity 5 Expands to Korea where it's wildly popular Beverage spreads to Mainland China
  7. 7. The Nation of Yellow Devil Sweat dripping down my neck, going down following the path. I thought just waiting for my guide was the best idea since there was no way I could communicate with people here walking pass by me. I felt like I was standing at the center of the Ulan Bator airport, but no one caring about me. I was coming from America, so the plane went across the Russian territory and landed in Ulan Bator. On the way coming here, I saw lots of mountain from the plane. Mongolia is mountainous and it is high elevated. The airport was noisy but I couldn’t hear anything. The paper in my hand with all the information in it was getting wet, but I couldn’t stop the perspiration. “Hello?” Finally… a word I was waiting for. I felt the aura of my savior, who will save me from this disaster. When she spoke English I was flying in the air, couldn’t control my feeling. I hope this moment was the end of my affliction in Mongolia. I slowly turned around, hoping this woman to be my tour guide (savior). I scanned her upside down and easily found out she was my tour guide. It was noticeable that she was Mongolian, and she had a funny looking coiffure. “Are you Danny? I’m Beki. I’ll first take you to the hotel, are you alright with that?” “I’m fine with anything, I guess”. In the car way to the hotel, my hair was jumping up down. Mongolia had lots of unpaved road and it was really wobbly in the car. “We didn’t have chance to talk a lot. So what’s your job?” “I’m a travel writer. This is my first time coming to Mongolia so I was struggling but you came and helped me like a savior. It’s not an adulation, I’m telling the truth.” “Thank you; well that’s what I’m supposed to do, guiding people.” 6 About 15 minutes passed and we arrived to our destination. The hotel was in a village called Baga Gazriin Chuluu, and there were traditional housings there, and its called the Yurt. Yurt is portable dwelling usually used by nomad like Mongolian. Yurt only takes 3 hours to make it or put down. It is usually 2 meters high and the roof looks like a dome. The felt that covers the yurt is usually sheep, and goat. The wool of an animal makes the house warm inside and since there are lots of sheep in Mongolia people still make yurt out of it. Inside the yurt was so well decorated; it had their traditional symbols and decoration in it. It had different symbol and different meaning for different rooms. In my symbol, five elements (ground, water, air, fire, grass) were included and it made beautiful wallpaper. My guide Beki told me that I can rest until 1:30, and it was almost 12:30 now.
  8. 8. It was 1:30 and Beki was calling me for lunch. Meal was one of the reasons why I decided to visit Mongolia, I’m a travel writer and food is something really important to us and to the writing. 5 minutes passed and the food was delivered. When I opened the cover, the white steam flew to the sky as if it was a dragon. Then good fragrance came into my nose, and stimulated me. When I took a bite of the ‘food’, the juice in it came out and burnt my tongue. It was Buuz. Mongolian usually eats a lot of Buuz in the New Year celebration. Buuz are filled with beef or mutton. It is flavored with garlic, onion, and salt. In other places in China people called it bao zi or jiao zi, but here in Mongolia you call it the Buuz. While I was enjoying my Buuz another food was delivered. This was the main. I could smell the aroma from million miles away. It was the grilled lamb. This was the thing I was waiting for, since I arrived in Mongolia. I couldn’t wait until it was on the table; I was already in a dream of eating and enjoying my food. The lamb barbeque was as good as I expected it. The meat was really soft and it wasn’t chewy. The taste of the sauce was still in my mouth after eating it. Mongolia is famous for sheep barbeque. There is lots of grassland, so there are lots of sheep. This is why Mongolian enjoys sheep food. It was my best meal ever; I ate lots of good foods while knowing a new culture. I had some time to rest after lunch then we were planning to go out and do some fun things. About 2 hours past and it was 4’o clock. We were going to visit Bayanzag, it is in the Gobi desert and it was a cliff that was red and where sun rises. When I walked outside my yurt, I noticed that Beki changed her cloth to traditional Mongolian dress. Its name was deel and it was really colorful. A deel is traditional clothing, and it is still worn by men and women these days. Deel typically reach below the wearer’s knees and fan out at the bottom and are commonly blue, olive, or burgundy, though there are deel in a variety of other colors. The one Beki was wearing was red, orange and blue color. The deel looked really good on her, but I was too afraid to try one of them. As we were moving to other place, yellow devil had greeted us in harsh way. Everything was hard to see because we had no foresight. It was a sandstorm. Sandstorm happens often in Mongolia. So every Mongolian brings mask with them. This happens frequently because lots of part of Mongolia is covered with desert (sand), such as Gobi desert, the Gobi measures over 1,600 km from southwest to northeast and 800 km from north to south Almost 10 minutes later we arrived to the Bayanzag, the red cliff. I couldn’t believe what I was looking at. A huge mountain that is red, and it is enormous. The red plate was going down the hill and it made the whole world red. We stayed silence for 10 minutes and we were just looking at the cliff and the sun. The Bayanzag was in the Gobi desert and this are is famous for discovery of dinosaur egg. This place was really famous but at the same time it was grand and it was astonishing. 7
  9. 9. We came back really late from the desert, and ate dinner outside. When we came back it was almost 10:00 clock. I was so tired I couldn’t do anything. I just decided to sleep early but there was one problem. There were too many bugs in my yurt. There were moth, and small insects. This distracted to sleep because I really hate bugs and it was just killing me. However, Beki came in and helped me catch the bugs, she really was my savior. Time for me to leave Mongolia had come. I wanted to stay longer but I couldn’t. When Beki and I were saying good-bye she almost cried. It was noticeable that she wanted me to visit after going back to America. Her bowl was over filled with water and it dripped down. Now I’m back to the airport but I’m in struggle again. One thing that was really important in this trip was Beki. I was always in trouble and struggling but she saved me. I’m sure I’ll miss her. I’m sitting in my desk at my working place still thinking about the trip in Mongolia. How fun it was, how kind people were, how good the food was, how beautiful the clothing was and lastly how beautiful it was to be in Mongolia. * Danny Cho 8
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  12. 12. THE ROOF OF THE WORLD Clambering up stone step after stone step to the roof of the world was no easy feat. the stinging in my legs was not unexpeCted, but was a shocking pain nevertheless. I paused shortly to breathe in the air, the frosty, invigorating air of southwestern China. In Tibet, mountains rose up on all sides. It takes a place like this for me to realize, quite regretfully, how miniscule and unimportant I am in the scheme of things. There’s a world full of greater and magnificent phenomenon. Upon nearing the end of the rather torturous steps up the side of an even more tortuous slope of a mountain, I note the swirling, colorful lines of paintings consuming surfaces of multiple boulders. The colors spiraled the rocky surface like smoke from a cigarette, endless coils spreading to the sky. The sun shone down on everything, casting shadows that cooled my skin, which was already chilled enough from the breeze. Finally, I had reached the top of the rough steps, to the Tibetan village I had traveled almost 4,000 km from Beijing to be. A wave of dancing colors sprang before my eyes like fireworks exploding against the night sky. Lines of prayer flags waved in the wind, along with silk striped curtains shading simple windows from the shining sun above, and the swirling skirts of women passing by, all who 10 Alan Kearney—Photographer’s Choice/Getty Images TIBETAN PRAYER FLAGS FLUTTER BEFORE MOUNT EVEREST AT THE BORDER BETWEEN NEPAL AND TIBET I was so intrigued by the color and movement that I overlooked the kind, wrinkled face that had been smiling up at me. The cheery woman informed me she was Pema, my host. Abruptly, she spun on her heel and began to walk away, stopping a few feet away to make sure I was following. We wove between crowds among the cobblestone streets, Pema rushing eagerly ahead as I tried to capture the picture before me of mountains looming up behind the tall white buildings, and the scent of cooking and life, and the feeling of cool wind and silk cloth brushing my arm. At one point we passed a group of women all styled in gold and jade headwear and long necklaces of varying colored beads and gems. I also took notice of the many
  13. 13. TRADITIONAL TIBETAN HOME AND WINDOW DECORATION. HOMES ARE USUALLY THREE STORIES HIGH AND CONSTRUCTED OF LOCAL STONE AND WOOD layers of patterned skirts in which they tie around their waists. “Gold and silver are not too impressive, it is the pearl and coral that we cherish here,” Pema announced, obviously having noticed my slowing pace and interested gaze as I watched the women walk away, their skirts oscillating around their hidden ankles. “Up in these mountains, we greatly value anything coming from the sea. Because it’s so far away, treasures from the coast are difficult to find here.” It only took a few more minutes on the streets before we arrived at Pema’s home. The street was lined on either side with white stone buildings towering two or three stories high. Although the buildings seemed plain and clean-cut, all one color, some walls were painted with the same curling, colorful designs as the rocks along the path to the village. There were also the curtains, striped and silky, waving hello to me as I admired the street’s geometric-organic shape contrast and random splashes of color. The buildings all consisted of flat roofs, this was meant to conserve heat, as the temperatures in Tibet were cooler than comfortable. Also, the walls tilted inwards at 10 degrees, this was quite easy to spot as the homes seemed to form a shape like a pilgrim’s hat: not pointed like a witch’s, but narrowing slightly. This feature was added as a precaution against numerous earthquakes that rattled the mountainous terrain. Inside Pema’s home there was a similar concept; bare stone floors and wooden furniture with the occasional colored woven pillow or cloth. It was all rather open, and a short, wide archway lead into the kitchen, in which Pema had already rushed in to. Pema beckoned me for dinner, her voice followed by the sounds of pots and plates. I slowly seated myself 11
  14. 14. Inside Pema’s home there was a similar concept; bare stone floors and wooden furniture with the occasional colored woven pillow or cloth. It was all rather open, and a short, wide archway lead into the kitchen, in which Pema had already rushed in to. Pema beckoned me for dinner, her voice followed by the sounds of pots and plates. I slowly seated myself at the wooden table in the center of the room. For the next ten minutes Pema busied herself preparing a Tibetan meal that I was eminently looking forward to, as my grumbling stomach continued to remind me. I decided to spend the time exploring the first floor of the home, afraid that going to the second or third would be intrusive. As I walked through rooms, each step brought with it a dull, quiet echo. The breeze from outside drifted through any small cracks it could find to fill the home with a chill that seemed to keep a contented balance in temperature. The tabletops scattered around the living area were carved with intricate designs of lines snaking through the wood, making tiny indentations that a fingertip could barely detect, as if carved by a peculiarly sharp toothpick. Benches, also wooden, were draped over the back with detailed hand woven cloths the colors of forests, rivers, flowers, and sunshine. Everything displayed here was hand made and insanely detailed, from the wall paintings to woven fabrics to carved wood. A gentle, jovial call told me that the meal was ready. I strode through the archways back to the large table I was seated at before, watching Pema 12 bring out bowls and plates and mugs two at a time. I recognized a plate of beef, bread, an unfamiliar type of meat, and a hot cup of some sort of tea. I kept patient, hoping my hunger would as well while I waited for Pema to explain the dishes. She indicated the plates set on the table, “This, as you might know, is simple beef. We don’t season food too much here. This bread here is what we call tsampa, it is a sort of roasted bread, made with barley and butter-tea.” I found the thought of roasted bread fascinating, as I didn’t believe I had ever tried any before. Pema, as if noticing my interest, smiled. She continued to the other dishes, “This is one of my favorites, yak. There seem to be too many yaks here, as they tend to inhabit mountain- PASTEL COLORED ROCK PAINTING ALONG THE PATH TO THE TIBETAN VILLAGE
  15. 15. ous and hilly areas. Yaks first domesticated in Tibet at least 3,000 years ago, and other than for meat we use them for many things, like their hair for yarn and their hides for boots. Nomads keep very large herds in the Tibetan mountains. They survive well in cold temperatures, better than most herd animals. Even with the amount of yak we eat, there seems to be more and more out there in the fields.” Pema laughed slightly. I found it quite heartwarming, Pema’s constant joyfulness; I could definitely learn something from her, other than Tibetan culture. “This is milk tea,” she went on, “milk from yaks is used more often than from cows.” Pema slid the mug toward me. Before starting my journey to Tibet, I had agreed with myself to come off my vegan diet, and eat any meat or dairy I might be offered. I did just that. Turns out milk tea is just, well, milk and tea. It wasn’t too flavorful, but it wasn’t too bitter, and it made your insides warm, in the best way possible. Pema took a seat across from me, her eyes on the food in front of her, her face wrinkled with age and too much smiling. I glanced down at my beef and yak, bracing myself for the meaty sensation I had been slowly getting used to as traveling brought me to places where trying their meat was practically essential. The scents of our meal wafted through the dense air of the room: the tangy, rich scent of dead animal, the toasty smell of roasted bread, and the sweet aroma of tea. Pema seemed utterly satisfied as she bit into her beef, as I unhurriedly lifted the meat speared through with a fork to my mouth. Slowly, I chewed. The yak itself was very similar to beef or lamb, and its lack of seasoning only put the focus on the meat alone, letting the pungent taste take over your mouth, without being overwhelming. I looked up from my pleasing meal to see a smiling Pema. ”Come, I will show you your room. You must be tired.” * * * The next morning I woke early to find Pema was already wide wake, drinking tea at the table and grinning up at me. After informing her I needed to take pictures of the village, we strolled from her house to the streets of Tibet, in search of scenery deserving to be captured on film. The once crowded streets were much less crowded, and the cool wind just a tad bit cooler. While searching for the right angles to capture a shot of a prayer flag line crossing over a view of the mountains, I caught sight of a woman dressed in bustling skirts rushing along holding a rather large basket of assorted foods. “The Linka Festival is coming up,” explained Pema, her eyes following the woman, “It is the ‘happy day of the world’ where those of all ages gather below old willow trees for entertainment. Years ago, in the late 1300’s, Jamqoi Gyaincain called upon the planting of 200,000 willow trees a year, and so now there are many in which we gather by for the Linka Festival. There are activities and food, and highland barley wine made from fermented barley grown in the highlands. It is great fun, if you could stay 13
  16. 16. so long, you would enjoy it.” “I wish I could, it sounds leisurely,” My mind raced with the images of Tibetans in their colorful clothing all dancing and running and eating and drinking below tall trees with twisting branches shading faces of those below it. My wandering mind barely slowed down to fascinate over the striking work of art before me. It was a painting made on silk with looping embroidery, I knew this as a thangka. It was hanging on the white wall of an edifice. These thangkas have been around for a very long time, dating back to the 11th century, and are a part of Tibetan art and culture. Colors and patterns danced across the fabric, telling a story I couldn’t possibly understand. Pema explained that at the center was a Buddhist deity, and the surrounding images displayed a scene or story. Pointed mountains and meandering representations of rivers expressed the Tibetan landscape as figures and shapes took up the rest of the silk fabric. I took more pictures of this than I needed, as I contemplated over the amount of detail Tibetans placed into their art. Over the course of the next few hours Pema and me strolled about the village, capturing photos that couldn’t be taken anywhere else in the world, up in these highlands crowded with yaks and goats and cows, and the Tibetan people with their meticulous art and cold-proof dresses. I thought that the pilgrim-hat building were clever, and wondered why I hadn’t seen other cold, moun- THIS HANDDRAWN MAP SHOWS TIBET AND THE SURROUNDING PROVINCES AND THE FEATURES THEY SHARE, SUCH AS MOUNTAINS, GRASSLANDS, COLD WEATHER, DESERTS, AND FORESTS. 14
  17. 17. tainous areas doing the same, and the flat heat-conserving roofs, and how the Tibetans knew how to use and live in the environment around them. It felt too soon when I glanced at my watch and realized I would have to be leaving. After gathering my things from Pema’s home, I thanked her for letting me stay, and complimented her knowledge of Tibetan history, and let her know how much she helped me on this journey. She then brought something out from behind her back, something long and white. “This is a hada, it is a white silk scarf, given as a gift in the Tibetan culture. To accept it you must bow your head and reach your arms out in front of you.” I did just as she said, and as she laid the silk in my hands, the soft feel of it made me shiver, although that could have just been the wind. I smiled at her kind face one last time, seeing her eyes glimmer and wondering whether she might be crying. As I turned and walked down the cobblestone streets to the steep yet exciting steps that would eventually lead me back home, I looked back only once, the village seeming like a memory already getting lost in the past. And so I decided that climbing each step to the roof of the world truly was no easy feat, but standing on the first stone of that path weaving to the valley below, I knew it was definitely worth it.* TIBETAN PRAYER WHEELS LINED ALONG A WALKING PATH OUTSIDE OF THE VILLAGE Henny Horensky 15
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  19. 19. The Village of the Dirt I gasped as the hot air filled my lungs. I dragged my luggage out of the train. The smell of the hot steaming corn filled my nose. Resisting the temptation to look, I dragged the luggage. I saw the Host at the Escalator leading upstairs. When the he grabbed me by the shoulder I freaked out. He was a middle aged about 35~40. I was in the car looking out the window; I could see the mountains stretched as far as the horizon. Mountains mostly cover Hunan. Only 20% of its land is plain. The Tujia people live at the top part of the Hunan. As I was approaching the village I saw more and more rice fields. Hunan’s economy is agriculture. It mostly produces rice. The host, Mr.Chen took me to leave my baggage in to my room that had nice comfy cotton couch. The blankets were neatly piled in the corner of the room. After getting out of the room Mr.Chen took me to a festival that was held today. It was a weeping marriage. I was confused what he was talking about. I thought marriage was supposed to be happy. But I saw what Mr.Chen meant. The bride was crying her heart out. I watched with wild wonder. The bride was crying because she is supposed to live in her husband’s house, she can’t return to her home. Also if she doesn’t cry, others would look down on her. The weeping marriage started from the unconscionable marriage system in the old times. Watching the people cry resembled me of a funeral. 17 The housing of the Tujia people was very unusual. They had second floor at their house. The walls were made out of wood. Hunan is a very humid place. So the Tujia people figured out a way to avoid this climate, they built a one more story. Building an extra story helped Tujia people. The second floor was much less humid. The Tujia people also had another place. They used the place for grinding the corn and abstracting oil. To use the corn-grinding tool you have to put the corn in the holes in the ground and roll the stone around to grind the corn. The Tujia people used this to grind dried corn. At the roofs there were a line, where corn was hanging like it was struggling to attach to the line. The people hang corn to dry them. This is the map of Hunan in China. boundary that is yellow is the part of Hunan where Tujia people live. Corns are some most eaten food in Tujia minority. The tujia minority is grouped with the name called
  20. 20. Mr.Chen took me to his house to serve me lunch. We had glutinous rice cake and Sautéed Preserved fish. The dishes were served at the front of the table so that everyone sitting at the table could share them. Sautéed Preserved fish was little spicy. Also I enjoyed having glutinous rice cake. I drank wine that Tujia people enjoyed. It was quite different from the wine that is red and from grapes. After lunch, Mr.Chen and I went to see the cornfield that he own. I saw tall and thin cobs of corn. Mr.Chen picked ones that were able to use. I dropped them in to the basket. After a while I switched with Mr.Chen picking the corns that was ok to pick. I had to get an approval by Mr.Chen because I didn’t know what to pick. I got the hang of it after one hour or two. After having 2 full sacks of corn we returned to the house. Mr.Chen went to steam the corn. After few minutes Mr.Chen came out with handful of corn. It was much more tasty than the ones I use to eat. After one corn I thought my belly was about to explode. My eyes slowly came down.Mr.Chen woke me up. I slept about an hour it felt very hot. Mr.Chen took me to his friend’s house. In traditional Tujia language I couldn’t understand anything. The friend asked me “ Are you enjoying your stay here?” I answered as he gave me a tea “drink” he said. I took the tea and drank it in one gulp. The friend told me that I was supposed to smell the tea and than drink slowly. Hunan is also famous for producing tea. This is the tool for grinding corn. After going to Mr.Chen’s friend’s house, Mr.Chen was preparing dinner. As he was laying the dishes on the table I helped him prepare. It was the Hot pot. It had smoked pork in the hot pot. Tujia food had sour and spicy taste that made it more delicious. After dinner, I was starting to prepare to sleep. I could see hundreds of stars in the sky. I spread the thick mat on the ground and made myself comfortable. Soon Mr.Chen blew out the candles. The village doesn’t have electricity, the Tujia people sleep when the sun goes down. I could see the lights getting turned off out side the window. And then it was complete darkness. I fell asleep soon after that. At morning, Mr.Chen came up to wake me up. Opening my eyes I saw shining lights of the sunlight. As I took the water from the well and washed, Mr.Chen prepared small breakfast. It was steamed corn. I ate two. Still, it tasted very nice. After packing and pushing things in to my bag I shoved them in to the car and headed to the train station. At the train station, I heard the loud screeching as the train stopped. I went in to the train. The train started to move and as I saw Mr. Chen slowly getting out of my sight I saw him holding and waving my hand. So I waved too. The train was going back not looking back to the village of dirt. The place where the tool were stored. 18
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