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Reflections on Yunnan

Reflections on Yunnan



During a two-week break from Beijing and classwork I experienced the incredible diversity of China’s southwestern Yunnan province. I bonded with my fellow TBC students while there. We were brought together through an extraordinary and trying experience. During our orientation the week prior, TBC staff told us that our time in Yunnan would be challenging. I think this is an apt word, because traveling through Yunnan was no walk in the park. We spent 60 hours in transit, over the course of two weeks, by bus mainly. We visited and stayed in five different villages; we met the Yi people, the Hani, the Dai, the Tibetans, and the Naxi.

I wrote the previous paragraph the weekend after returning. I finish this now, after ample reflection, at the end of March. After returning there was a palpable sense of road-weariness, but this must not be seen to overshadow a truly magnificent opportunity. In our orientation we were told that we would be invited into their homes warmly, during the most important family holiday, and would be afforded generous hospitality everywhere we went. This was always the case in my experience. It was truly extraordinary how accommodating and friendly people were. I had many great pictures of the excursion. Unfortunately, I lost my camera while returning to Beijing. We left the Naxi village by bus, left Dali by train (camera left on train in Kunming), and then left Kunming by plane.

One memory that stands out in my mind is standing on the rooftop of my host father’s home, in the Hani village. The combination of his accent and my beginner’s Mandarin abilities made communication extremely difficult. My host father in the Hani village brought me and another TBC student in that homestay up to the roof of his home, and we looked out to the mountains all around us, and the valleys below. I can say readily that I have never seen such a spectacular view anywhere else in my life, and truly nothing else is comparable. (Except maybe the view of the stars on a rooftop on the Naxi village the week after). While we stood on the rooftop, marveling at mountains shrouded in mist and looking out to a river valley where the sun was setting, my host father pointed in various directions and said a number of things I did not understand at all. I asked a number of questions in an attempt to catch his meaning. The other student on the rooftop realized he was saying, 山 (shan)- mountain. After some more time we realized he was telling us the name of the mountains around us, and the name of the mountain that was home to that particular Hani village. I remember telling him that the view was beautiful, (很漂亮) and he smiled with pride.

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