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Day 8: Shuhe

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  1. Well, I have an internet connection today. We've had a somewhat busy
  2. last few days. Last night we actually stayed in our guide's village at
  3. her family home. She introduced us to her parents. They were born in
  4. the mid 1950s so both of them were teenagers during the Cultural
  5. Revolution. Having lived through that they became adults and spent
  6. most of their lives during the Reform Period, a sharp contrast to
  7. Socialist China. It was interesting to think about their lives with
  8. them having born witness to some of the most drastic changes in
  9. China's history.
  10.  
  11. Yesterday we left Shaxi and spent a long stretch of our road time next
  12. to the Yangtze river. It was market day for the local villages, so we
  13. checked out one of the larger ones on the way but it wasn't that busy.
  14. We think it's due to the fact that most farmers are tending to their
  15. crops right now and don't have much to sell.
  16.  
  17. Last night we took a long winding drive up to an ethnic Yi people
  18. village. They are primarily hill people, and retain their own
  19. traditions (such as ritual tattoos) despite being surrounded by the
  20. lowland Naxi. As an ethnic group they're incredibly poor for the most
  21. part. Their villages in the mountains has kept them isolated for most
  22. of their history and the occasional difficulties that arise in raising
  23. crops so high up has generally made them less prosperous than their
  24. Naxi neighbors. Due to their poverty, the Yi have struggled with
  25. education and with alcohol/drug addiction. However, the government has
  26. redoubled its efforts in aiding these tribes. The village we visited
  27. has had electricity for about 10 years now and their children receive
  28. subsidies for school fees toup to middle school. Medical care has also
  29. increased as the lower villages have developed.
  30.  
  31. I learned what I know about this village from an interview we had with
  32. a Yi family in their home. There was an interesting point when one of
  33. the older women remarked about our status as students, inferring by
  34. our clothing and the fact that we were there studying her home that we
  35. must be wealthy and lead "comfortable lives". It was an interesting
  36. moment of self-reflection. For these people, the things I have access
  37. to must seem unimaginably wealthy. College education, fresh food any
  38. time of the year from a supermarket, access to new clothing, travel,
  39. leisure... All of these things are mundane to most Americans and
  40. Europeans, and yet only pieces of these things are within reach for
  41. these peoples. I came to this country being prepared for what I'd see,
  42. but confronting something you've only read about gives you a different
  43. knowledge than what you had learned before.
  44.  
  45. Today we visited a Tibetan Buddhist temple. We rented bikes and
  46. travelled there by dirt road. I tried Yak-Butter tea for the first
  47. time at  their monastery (tastes like popcorn). Over the next few days
  48. we'll be continuing our travel along the Tea Horse road as we hike
  49. through the beginnings of the Himalaya. We'll be climbing Jade Dragon
  50. Snow Mountain and visiting the villages that are located along the
  51. ancient road. We'll be beginning our mountain travel after a day in
  52. Lijiang tomorrow.
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