Thursday, August 7, 2008

Today is Chinese Valentine's Day

And Today, a failed meeting started my morning.

I was summoned to The Nature Center to meet with two people this morning, only to have the meeting canceled upon my arrival! No problems though, I reorganized myself with a morning snack of Naxi baba.

This afternoon, I once again trekked over to my Mao Bi Xie XueXiao (Calligraphy School) to join the kids in daily practice. I sat with my 2 new friends, and was utterly doted upon. The teacher calligraphed me the most beautiful rendition of a postal address I've ever seen, a little girl gave me a sign with "Beijing 2008 Olympics" in her hand-drawn Chinese & Dongba characters, and police officers, taking a break from the long work day, came in to sit and stare at my scribble-scrabble. The lao shi watched while take puffs out of his long pipe every now and then (PS: this tobacco pipe is as big as a 5-year-old kid.)

As I sat near the window of the school, I myself became a spectacle. Just as I, as a tourist, would look at these kids doing calligraphy and "oohh and ahhh" at the Chinese-y ness of it all-- I get the same treatment. Intrepid Chinese tourists, venturing from the shopping streets to this lesser populated part of town, poke their heads in to stare at my hand. All ask-- does she even know what she's writing? Answer is mostly a big NO. (Though I do have a reaffirmed interest in learning to write Chinese characters now.) It's a little nerve-racking to get stared at, but it makes you focus all the more.

After class, two new young classmates--a Naxi and Tibetan girl--took me into the market to treat me to all the wonders of Lijiang food. They are THRILLED to take me to eat (again, the Chinese hospitality) and bounced out of their chairs when I said I'd still be here for 2 weeks. "Just think of all the things you can eat!" they oozed. The girls are wonderful. So, I guess, in addition to my old Naxi grandma friends in their 80s, I have friends in their 10s and 11s and 12s. They speak in rapid motion, never really slowing down to make sure I understand. Nonetheless, their patience is dumbfounding; they don't mind repeating things maybe once, twice, thrice. I'm lucky they're so outgoing and kind. And, I wonder what we'll eat tomorrow.

Dinner was spent with friends I had made at my old hotel. I chatted with my Meimei and tried to console her in her love turmoil. Today is Lover's Day--Chinese Valentine's Day--and a suitor of 2 years tried ONCE AGAIN to woo her. Oh, the agony! She moaned (in the typical girly Chinese melodramatic way), asking me to tell her what to do. Red roses, a day at the park where he showered her with gifts... what's a girl to do?

Back at my own hostel, I asked the owner--Mama Naxi--about water here in Lijiang. She shed new light on my current knowledge... apparently, even 5 years ago, the water in the canals was warm. You could bathe in the canals even on a winter morning and not get cold. However, now this is not the case. Why? Today, Lijiang's water comes from Black Dragon Pool AND Baisha village. Half and Half. The water from Baisha village comes from the Snow Mountain, the water from Heilongtan (Black Dragon Pool) is from its own primary spring. This mixing dilutes the warmth of the spring.

30 years ago, you could drink the canal water, Mama Naxi says. (And this is from experience--she's lived in the Old Town for over thirty years.) The throws of tourism have dirtied Lijiang's water; it is no longer the same. Now, no one drinks the canal water. Rather, it comes to them through pipes... though still from Black Dragon Pool (or at least, that's what I think she said). [But, I still want to know, how is the Black Dragon Pool water cleaned?! It was so dirty when I saw it! Oh my, my gums & teeth are depending on it!]

Another clue from Mama Naxi: in 1983, all the water in the canals dried up--even from the Black Dragon Pool source. Some smart & indignant Lao Mama Naxi (Old Naxi Mamas) went to "complain" & "plead" (though these are my words) with the source... and just like that, the water started to flow again. I will have to find these Old Naxi Mamas and ask what they did: who did they talk to & what did they say to warrant the spring to provide water again? Unfortunately, my Mama Naxi, the hostel owner, doesn't know what they said. Most Naxi people, she tells me, don't know about Dongba culture. It's separated, not common knowledge. I wonder, then, how a seemingly "elitist" belief--of water protection, love in the Shu Spirits--translates into common practice.

1 comment:

BW said...

Just think of all the food you can eat! You are going to be do you say "I'm full!" in Mandarin?