Friday, May 29, 2009

Never Make An Idle Promise To A Yao Woman

Several kilometers across the mountains from Ping'An lies the village of Zhongliu. We had heard that the hike is spectacular, with great rice terrace vistas, and that the place itself is quaint and beautiful. We didn't know if we would have enough time to make it there and back by sundown, but we thought we would have a go at it.

As we set out, we had hardly left Ping'An when we encountered a Yao woman on the path. The Yao, who call Zhongliu their home, are a different minority than the Zhuang who live in Ping'An. Yao women are distinctive both in their colorful clothes, as well as their hair, which they keep as long as Julie's, if not longer.

This Yao woman asked us if we were going to Zhongliu. "If you are going there, I will go with you, and you can come to my house, where I will cook you dinner." We (actually, I) told her that if we made the trek again the next day, we could perhaps do this. It was not the last time I made this kind of deal.

Much later in the hike, we came upon a Yao woman working in the rice fields. Seeing us coming along, she hurried down to the path, and asked us if we were going to Zhongliu. When we told her we didn't think we had enough time, she tried to convince us otherwise. Lucky for us, a couple of waiguoren and their Chinese guide walked up, and our Yao companion abanadoned us to follow the three of them into her village.

Turning around to get back to Ping'An before dark, we encountered several groups of Yao women. All of them were heading home after a day of hawking merchandise over in Ping'An, where there is a larger concentration of visitors. Several of these women gave us their cell phone numbers, and we (uh, I) promised to call them if we decided to go to Zhongliu the next day. As the numbers were all written down on tissues (the only paper we had in our packs), one Yao woman reminded us, over and over, not to blow our noses into this one particular tissue, lest we lose her number.

As funny a moment as that was in real time (everyone can understand the universal language of blowing snot!), it was an encounter that would come back to haunt us the next morning, when the time came for us to make good on all of our (my!) promises...

~Steve

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