Saturday August 7, 2010

Thought for the day: “It is possible to store the mind with a million facts, and still be entirely uneducated” Alec Blourn

Saturday early morning was filled with thunder, lightning and rain by the bucketfuls. Not an auspicious beginning for our only free Saturday. It was still raining after breakfast so Lee, Bill, Marissa and I decided to head to the Yunnan Provincial Museum by taxi.

We had two Chinese college students approach us in the museum, asking if they could practice English with us. They were volunteer guides in the museum. Joseph was a student in Kunming and lived in another city not far away. He is studying business English. Darryl lived in Kunming but is a student in Beijing, studying electrical engineering. They explained in fair English many of the exhibits to us and made our visit much more interesting. We helped them with their English pronunciation and sentence structure.

The museum was quite good, with a large exhibit of bronze artifacts from a nearby site, which was discovered in the 1950’s. Reportedly, bronze pieces were found for sale in the Kunming Bird and Flower Market. Further investigation led them to the Lijiashan village site. The Museum also had an entire wall mural of the Dai Minority Water Splashing Festival. It looked like a massive water fight with wall-to-wall people. Too bad it is not happening while we are here. It would be great fun to participate!

The skies looked less threatening after lunch, so we decided to head to the Western Hills and the Yunnan Nationalities Village. The trip was about 30 minutes and to our amazement cost only about 31 Yuan. We tried to find the cable car to the Western Hills, but no dice. Something must have been lost in translation when Baoli told us it was “right next to the Village”.

We headed into the Village through a maze of souvenir shops and snack food. Lee got in free with his driver’s license. Marissa could not get in at half price without her student ID, so we three had to pay 70 Yuan each. The Village contains 26 different minority areas. I will just mention a few. The Dai People have the Water-Splashing Festival I mentioned earlier. They have dragon-boat racing, singing, dancing, and fireworks. They also have an exquisitely beautiful dance called the “Butterfly Dance”. The Yi People have their Torch Festival, where they build bonfires and dance with torches. They also have wrestling, bull fighting, singing and dancing, The Hani People do precision dancing between bamboo sticks. The Dulong People are famous for their colorful weaving, and they wear elaborate masks in their ceremonies. The minority that surprised me the most was the Jinpo People. They are a minority who uses our English alphabet for their language. They were converted to Christianity by Western missionaries and worship in a church. There are pictures of The Last Supper and the life and death of Christ. The guitar is one of the instruments they use for their singing.

Unfortunately, Bill received a very painful bug bite on a finger in a Buddhist Temple “some kind of a big black flying bug.” Fortunately, there was a little concession stand close by. No ice, so we did the next best thing. Bill held a frozen ice cream cone on his finger until the cone melted. By then, his finger was feeling less painful.

When we entered the Bulang Village we found an insect display, where the insects were visible in plastic pendants. It was funny to see Bill and Marissa going from bug to bug, trying to identify what had bitten him. We also met an exceptionally talented artist in this village who did wood carvings. A very colorful butterfly carving caught Marissa’s eye and Bill decided to buy it. We all agreed it was a good decision.

On the way out of the park we saw an elderly woman in ethnic garb. I approached her for a photo, but her husband kept walking, saying something in Chinese which obviously meant “no”. We continued walking, when about five minutes later the same woman put her arm through mine, indicating that she wanted the photo after all. So, Bill took a photo of her, Marissa and me; he showed the photo to her and to her husband, who was now all smiles. I don’t know what changed his mind, but I’m glad he did.

The taxi back cost us a whopping 33 Yuan. We did not get back to the hotel until about 1900, but Baoli was nice enough to delay her meal to wait for us. I gave Bill Benadryl for his bug bite, and by morning he said his finger was feeling a lot better. We all had a fun day, even without the Western Hills.

– Helene

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