Tuesday, August 12, 2008

About Town

In addition to my meetings, other wanderings include continued Calligraphy class, hanging out with 11-year-olds on Sundays, being asked to be an English teacher for a girl named Sunny, hanging out with my Meimeis (sisters) at my old guesthouse, conversing in Chinglish with the girls that smoothly run my hostel (...You know, it doesn't seem so odd to me, in this seemingly women-run society, that most of my friends are girls!), and watching…hearing…reading about the Olympics.

Calligraphy class—four lessons later—is a great routine to my day. Always at 2pm, I greet the same kids, sit in the same seat, and practice the same characters. I still don’t know what I write, but I’m excited as my hand becomes more composed, the lines less wobbly, the strokes more defined. Always at 4pm, I wonder what we’ll eat in the market—perhaps er quai, a ricey dough fried with spice, or maybe liang fen, fried greyness made from chickpeas and soaked in soy sauce. All are delicious, save perhaps the pig’s-stomach-rice-blood-sausage I weaseled my way out of eating the other day.

On Sunday, after my intellectually-stimulating morning at the NGO Green Watershed, I spent the afternoon in a rather lessened “smarty-pants” environment…taking silly pictures and buying pretty stationary with my 11-year-old friend YunYu. Younger people have so much more patience and delight in the simpler things I can communicate; it’s relaxing to hang out with her. Although, I cannot remember the last time I was invited to play with Barbies.

I politely declined.

When I have time, I stop by my old guesthouse to play with my Meimeis there (the lovely models of the photos you see). Every now and then another little pengyou (friend) is there to play—and so picture-time is of the essence. Often they invite me to a delicious dinner as well: Yunnan potatoes sumptuously covered in chili-sauce, fried chicken, similarly-chilied cold cucumbers, stir-fried mushrooms, tomatoes and eggs… I can hardly resist.

My hostel, Mama Naxi’s, runs like clockwork. (And, it’s the perfect example of tourism mixed with Naxi heritage.) The three girls that work there work HARD; it never seems like they get any rest. 6:30am wake up, make breakfast for the picky foreign guests, explain to them the tourist options of the area, book plane and bus tickets for them, make their beds, do the laundry, clean the toilets, serve the tea, feed the cats, shop at the market, throw out the trash, deal with the foreigners again, prepare dinner, clean dinner, serve the tea, balance the books, tell the foreigners to get to bed, 12:30pm go to sleep themselves. Day in and day out. I asked one such girl—who I believe will soon take over this business, her knowledge of the ins and outs of this place is impeccable—when she gets to xiuxi, or rest. It doesn’t seem like ever, really. And for their sacrifice, they reap in the benefits. Backpackers from all parts of the world flock to their abode… helping Mama Naxi make a wonderful killing.

In true Naxi form, it’s the women that have the brains and stakes in this business. Last night, I sat with aforementioned next-in-line girl and Mama Naxi, as they balanced their account books near midnight. Pens to the paper, fingers to the calculator—both thinking intently. Papa Naxi, on the other hand, was walking back and forth around the common room, sometimes stopping to watch the current Olympic match, sometimes filling up guests’ teacups, sometimes kicking a cat out of the way. At one point, he asked Mama a seemingly inconsequential question, and she snapped at him—definitely putting him in his place! Naxi women may work hard, but they really do have the money-making glory to call the shots around here.

I like it!

And here... are pictures of making paper with Yana & Dongba store priests (are they real if they sell goods?), LONG overdue:

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