China July 7, 2011

We just pulled into Kaili tonight and we’re spending one night here before heading west to Guiyang to the airport.  It’s quite a contrast to have been in such a beautiful and rural place in the morning and sleep in an urban bustling city like Kaili tonight.

Last night was our last one with host families in Xijiang.  You will be amazed by the photos your kids have taken.  We finished the rice paddy and were able to see it flooded and plowed by a bull lead by a man directing a handmade plow blade.  He was barefoot.  Later kids put on their mud boots and waded through the paddy to help evenly distribute the topsoil they had so laboriously spread and rid of rocks the day before. It’s unbelievable that we were able to build a complete rice paddy in four days from start to finish.  It’s something they’ll never forget.

After lunch kids helped their families with daily chores like cutting vegetables from fields as high on the mountain as our rice paddy was. Other kids helped cut grass and other greens to be fed to pigs, horses and other animals.  Some helped restock a small village store with supplies.  Once cleaned up we gathered at our house, a large home owned by the former village chief, for a traditional fiest of delicious food and the customary hot-pot sour fish soup.  After dinner we were invited up to an open area where our host families and other local villagers put on the Miao clothing reserved for festivals and other special occasions.  They played the luschent (my phonetic spelling for what is a bamboo reed flute) and sang songs and performed dances.  We’d seen a tourist version of this in town, but it had so much more meaning when performed especially for us and by people we’d come to know well.

This morning it poured rain which delayed our departure by a little over an hour.  Since we have been living high on a hillside we had to walk down to get onto our bus (driven by what must be the most skilled driver in China–Mr. Yang).  Our luggage was brought down on the backs of four different horses used throughout the village for hauling stuff up and down the hills.  When we departed Xijiang we drove west through other Miao villages and we hiked through a beautiful national park to view a stunning waterfall. This morning’s rain made it even more beautiful.

Tomorrow we leave early for our drive to the Guiyang airport.  We are on a late afternoon flight to Beijing.  We’ll be met by new guides. Our itinerary is full starting with a hike up a section of the Great Wall.  We’ve hiked UP HILL so much that this should be no problem at all.  We’ll see western tourists for the first time in two weeks.  Honestly, it feels like we’ve had China all to ourselves.

See you soon.  We’ll write again from Beijing if we get the chance.

Erin (on behalf of Sandra, Michael and Marie).

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