Friday, May 29, 2009

Standing In A River, Surrounded By Arguing Yao Women

That is precisely the situation we found ourselves in, after we had decided the next morning to hike all the way to Zhongliu, for a look around and a meal in a Yao family's house.

Not long after we set out from Ping'An, we ran into a group of Yao women heading to the village for a day of selling. One of the women, who we had encountered several times before, turned right around, so she could walk with us and cook for us once we had reached her home. So far, so good...

About an hour later, as we were closing in on Zhongliu, we came upon another group of women just getting started on their trek across the mountains. Desi, sensing danger much faster than me, slowed down her pace, so that I was the one who ran head on into the women, all by myself.

You see, this was the group that was led by the "snot blowing" Yao, the woman who had made an emphatic point about us not losing her cell phone number. Seeing us being escorted by another one of her townsfolk, she immediately questioned me as to why I hadn't called her.

She then turned to the woman who had been walking with us, and argued it was her who had the better claim to us, since we were carrying her cell phone number in our backpack.

Our escort, for her part, yelled right back. Now, they were speaking in dialect, so I could only guess as to what her retort might have been..."I've been walking with these waiguoren for an hour. They are coming to my house!"

When we reached the foot of the village, thew argument between the two groups was still raging. Seeking a momentary respite from the conflict, we retreated to the cool waters in the middle of a nearby stream, knowing the Yao would not follow us in (ah, the advantages of wearing Crocs!). As we helplessly stood there, a young couple hiked by, and made sure to take a picture of our moment of humiliation. (I can only imagine what they were thinking!)

Eventually, we could run from our troubles no longer, so I decided on a different tact. Wading out of the stream, I addressed the Yao women. It was one of my weirdest moments in China yet, as here I was, a guy who just started learning Chinese a few years ago, lecturing a group of minority women living up in these remote mountains about their need to get along better. It went something like this...

You are all Yao, all members of the same nationality. You all need to work together. We are not going to decide whose house to go to. You all have to decide that. If you can't figure this out, then we will go back to Ping'An or find someone else to cook for us.

I have no idea if these words helped, or if they were viewed as condescending. No matter. A decision was finally made, and off we went, for that long awaited meal in the home of a Yao family...

~Steve

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