Monday, April 28, 2008

Our stay in 'Sure Ping",not quite a sure thing!

Around April 10th the doc, Shan Shan, Shao Li, and I traveled to another township, and from there, to another village.  Because I can never remember the actual spelling of these locations, I'm going to have to write how they sounded phonetically.  We traveled south of Kunming for about three and a half hours by bus before arriving at "Sure Ping", the main township of the county.  From "Sure Ping" we hopped in a car and drove another 30min or so before arriving at another township called "Bow Shoe".  It was in "Bow Shoe" that we spent our first night.  Bob, who had been to "Bow Shoe" before, had forewarned me that our living accomodations weren't going to be exactly, hmmm how would I put it?....nice.  It wasn't that the hotel didn't provide the essentials like beds, sheets, or a bathroom, rather that the place had a cockroach infestation, was swarming with mosquitos, and smelled like a sewage treatment plant.  I was actually brazen enough to use the shower the next morning and was unable to distinguish whether that awful stench was coming from the shower head or the toilet, I like to believe it was the latter.  Fortunately we were only there for one night.  The next morning we packed up, hopped in a truck, and headed towards the village which was amusingly pronounced, but incorrectly spelled, "Go Back Home".  This village was far and away the most beautiful and scenic location we had been to while in China.  It was built on the side of a mountain, existing amidst a number of other mountains, which overlooked a river that ran a serpentine course through the valley below.  Ironically, the environment surrounding the village was closely similar to what I'm familiar with "back home" in Ketchum, Idaho.  However, before enjoying this majestic setting, we had to endure some serious hardship.  Our driver, who we had paid handsomely to drive us to our location, refused to cross the river at the base of the mountain where the village was located.  He was worried that the foot and a half of water that we would have to forge could possibly get the engine wet which would prevent the car from running.  So rather he be stuck, he took our money and kicked us out at the edge of the river with all our luggage.  I guess the concept of a refund doesn't exist in China.  So as Bob in an annoyingly, and suspiciously chipper tone put it, "ha ha, well, i guess we're walking".  So we hiked with Shao Li and myself shouldering most of the weight.  This was, as you might have already imagined, not a pleasant experience.  The first hour or so was not particularly bad. It was once we reached what we thought had been the top, realizing that it was not, and being asked to carry more weight, that my temperament really started to turn sour.  I had to akwardly cradle Shan Shan's suitcase like an overweight baby, and even though I adore Shan Shan, at one point I felt like shot putting her bag halfway down the mountain side.  It was also a hot day.  More than two weeks later and skin is still peeling off my shoulders and back.  Finally, when Bob had had enough, he sent Shao Li on a solo mission to reach the top and retrieve transportation.  It didn't take Shao Li long because little did we know, we were only about a quarter of a mile from the village.  
          So we made it to the top, got settled into the village doctor's home, had lunch and began with a free clinic.  If you've seen the photos you can probably tell that we're still recovering from the hike, looking tired and sweaty.  We ended up spending a total of four days and three nights in "Go Back Home".  We continued our research in the village and near the village center which was about a 20min hike from where we were staying.  On our last night there we were treated with a very special surprise.  All of the villagers were part of the Yi minority.  The Yi people are 1 of 55 ethnic minorities that are officially recognized in the People's Republic of China.  To save time describing every aspect of their culture I'm attaching this link for interested readers:  Needless to say, they are a fascinating group of people with long traditional roots.  Bob had asked some of the villagers to dress up in their traditional garb and show us some of their dances.  They agreed but asked us to give them a day or so to get prepared.  What we expected was a private showing with maybe a couple of the locals.  What we received was a full blown village performance.  We were taken to a spot that was perched on the side of the mountain where a large, flat area of ground had been cleared off specifically for festive occasions.  It was on this make-shift dance floor where 30 to 40 of the older generation villagers got dressed up, grabbed their instruments, and put on about an hour and a half long performance for us.  Definetly the highlight of my trip.  What I hadn't known though was that Bob had told the villagers that because they showed us their dance moves, that in return, I personally would give them a demonstration of how a Westerner dances.  I wasn't given any prior notice, the music they were playing was far from what I was accostomed to, and in addition, he expected me to dance by myself in front of the entire village.  No Way!  What I was able to do was convince Shan Shan to come out on the dance floor with me and give them a demonstration of a simple two-step.  Ultimately, I was able to save face (very important in China) and not disappoint the locals. 
see pictures below....

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