• 11Mar

    Here’s the long post that was promised!  Combining busy with a non-cooperative internet results in posts taking forever to write!

    Onto the adventures….Let’s start with Wenshan!

    I arrived on a Thursday night in Wenshan to the welcoming arms of Pam and Susanna.  It was great to see them again after I had been in the States for Christmas.  Friday I got to go down to the Rehab Center and see it in action.  What an awesome experience.  I can’t wait to make it a part of my daily life.  There were 3 kids that came to Friday’s morning session.  One boy has a form of Cerebral Palsy where he’s not really supposed to be able to walk but as of right he’s walking around (not in the most stable way, but still it’s walking!).  A different boy was a healthy, normal kid up until he got very sick and then reverted back to almost an primitive infant like state.  He could no longer walk or talk.  So they are working on helping him to remember and relearn everything!  The last and quite possibly my favorite =), was a little girl.  She was a twin, but her twin didn’t survive.  Probably as a result to being a twin, she was born with very little leg muscles (especially in the hip area) and her parents just carried her everywhere because it was all they knew to do.  Her spirit is so uplifting.  She’s a very very happy little girl.  My favorite thing about her is she’s like a parrot!  I was playing with one of the other kids and we were reading an English Song book and we arrived at the Happy Birthday song… so I was singing it… and the little girl starting singing with me in English!  Sooo cute.  The rest of the day she was just happily singing the Happy Birthday song.

    That Saturday Rachel (my future roommate/twin) and I went around town looking at apartments.  I think that we calculated that we climbed somewhere around 35 flights of stairs.  The 2nd to last apartment we looked at turned out to be the right one!  It’s very very similar to the one I live in now.  It’s a 4 bedroom 2 bathroom.  The apartment has never been lived in and the landlord just finished remodeling it.  One of the great things is that it’s on the 3rd floor!  No more 7 flights of stairs (well once I move), guess I’ll just have to go up and down twice every time I come home or leave to keep up my exercise program.


    Here’s the living room area.  An where I’m taking the picture from is the dining room.  To the left in the picture is the front door.  To the right is a hallway to all the bedrooms and bathrooms.


    Here is a picture looking down the hallway.  All the rooms are pretty comparable in size.  There is a master bedroom that has a bathroom in it.  We’re planning to make it the guest bedroom.  The one drawback for this place is that there is only one bathroom with a western toilet.  We tried to negotiate for them to change it or allow us to change the “squatty potty” in the other bathroom but they wouldn’t let us.  So for all of you that want to come visit you’ll be happy to know that the guest bedroom is the bathroom with the Western toilet!

    That Monday we (Rachel, Pam, Susanna and I) piled in a car and made the trip back to Kunming.  On Tuesday, Pam was heading out to the States and we (Ruth, Susanna and I) were headed out to DongChuan.

    The bus ride to DongChuan seemed so short (around 3 hours) now that I was almost used to going to Wenshan (around 6 hours).  I was extra excited to go home with them this time because it felt like I was going to see family.  I was no longer a stranger and I was excited to try out some of my new language skills.  Last year, I barely could make 2 sentences!  Plus I knew that Ruth and I now had pretty good communication.  It was great to be able to communicate with more than just a smile.  Even though Ruth’s family speaks a local dialect (roughly called Yunnan Hua), they’re able to understand basic Mandarin (through watching tv and whatever amount of schooling they remember).  By the end of the week I was even picking up the local dialect!

    The big event this year was that they waited for us to arrive to kill the pig!  Most families (in the villages) will kill a pig around Chinese New Year and last year Ruth’s family chose to kill it before we arrived.  This year I got to see it all happen.  Around 8:45am Ruth’s mom came into the bedroom and told me that I better hurry and get up because they were about to kill the pig.  I threw on some pants, quickly put on a sweatshirt and grabbed my camera just in time to see them tie the pig’s nose.


    She was a pretty big and harry pig.  (Ruth’s Dad is the guy in the red hat).  They were telling me that she was around 250 KG (550 LBS).  The boys hoisted the pig onto a table (much like that of a very unsteady wooden picnic table).


    Here she is with the knife in ready position.  They roll her on her back then the 4 men hold her down while the one guy goes for the heart.  There is a tradition here for the owner of the pig to not be the one who kills the pig.  Only someone who doesn’t live in the house can kill the pig.  So one of the friends was the man of honor.  (Ruth’s dad went to Ruth’s maternal grandmother’s house to kill their pig for them).  The do a quick jab, twist and remove.

    The next few pictures might not be for those who don’t like gross things… but just think that anything red in this picture is paint and you’ll be just fine.

    So they basically just roll her over and push as “paint” comes gushing/flowing/splashing out.  They massage as much as they can out of the hole that was created by the vacancy of the knife.  It actually seemed to be a pretty quick death.  The pig hardly struggled and I’m only guessing that the tied mouth prevented it from squealing.


    It’s sort of interesting that they collect the blood.  Rumor has it that they eat it or something.  Or use it in cooking.  I’m not really sure since it wasn’t Ruth’s family that kept it.


    The funniest part was after they finished draining the “paint” from the pig they then needed to transport it to the next place for the washing and removing of hair.  They tied the pig up on the stick and proceeded to carry it, but as they’re moving it… massive amounts of pee come gushing out!  Guess you can still pee after you die if you’re a pig.


    The way they clean and remove the hair is very interesting.  They have a place that seems to be just for that purpose.  It’s a very large wok heated by a real fire below.  The wok is filled with water and proceeds to become boiling hot.  The put a portion of the pig in (for instance the head is currently in the water) and use a pan to pour the hot water over the part they want to shave.  When the pig’s skin become hot enough apparently the hair comes out very easy.  They then use a piece of metal to scrape off the fur and dirt.  You can see the white part of the stomach that’s been cleaned.  It takes quite awhile for this process to be complete.  Areas like the face take a little bit longer since there are a lot of curves and crevasses to get to.


    The pig is then transported back up to the house to be butchered.  (It took them about 8 times trying to tie the pig to the stick to transport back up).  I have some pretty cool pictures of the guts and what not but I thought that I’d help save a lunch or some cookies for those who have weaker stomachs.


    After the butchering meat is separated from fat.  The fat is broken down into chunks to later be converted into “oil”/lard.  The meat is broken down into parts that then begin the preservation process.  Ruth’s dad spends a good 2 hours rubbing down all the meat with lots of salt and at times different spices.  It then just sits in a very large bucket waiting to be eaten.


    The last step is that it’s cooked and turned into a great meal.  This is our Chinese New Year meal.  [Ruth’s parents on the left, Ruth, then TangLi (Ruth’s second sister), me, WeiWei (Ruth’s youngest sister), and YanLi (Ruth’s cousin).

    A few additional notes about this picture.  The two doors in the back lead to the two bedrooms.  The one on the left is Ruth and her sister’s room.  The one on the right is the parents bedroom.  It’s fun at night when WeiWei (who sleeps in the parent’s bedroom) is telling us (in the other bedroom)good night.  It reminds me of the old way the Waltons used to say good night.  While the rooms are divided by a concrete wall, the “ceiling” is a heavy tarp like thing that separates the “attic” from the house.  The “attics” here are used to store foods, grains, and various items.  It’s used as a “cool dark place” that a lot of things call for.  So with the attic connecting the two rooms it makes talking between the two rooms only sound a little muffled.

    The bureau to left is the “refrigerator”/cupboard.  It is where left-overs are stored at night as well as things like bowls and chopsticks.


    For Chinese New Year I had brought some sparklers for WeiWei to play with.  They were pretty cheap (as they didn’t last very long) but fun at the same time.  Sparklers would be fun to play with a long exposure on a camera….


    Last year I took a picture of their house looking from the door that’s in the middle of the picture looking towards where I’m taking this picture now.  So I thought this year I’d trade perspectives.  Directly to my left (not pictured) are two pens where the pigs live.  Directly to my right (also not pictured) is where the donkey sleeps at night.  The door on the left in the back is the kitchen.  It consists of two of the wok things that you saw them using for the pig, only smaller.  It usually takes two to cook.  One to actually do the stir-frying and then the other to keep the fire underneath hot by adding more and more kindle/firewood.  Through the door in the middle is the living room/dining room.  And where the house changes colors is where the bedrooms start.


    The day after Chinese New Year we went up to Ruth’s grandma’s house (also Susanna’s house).  This picture was taken the day after we arrived.  The family gathered for “Grandma’s” birthday.  In this picture are 4 of the 5 siblings and their families.  It’s a big fun family.  We spent a good part of the night just laughing and playing.  It’s fun to get to be a part of their family.  The only family missing from the celebration is below!


    This is Susanna’s 3rd sister and her family.  Including the ever cute ChouChou.  We ha spent a night at their house too.  Unfortunately it was one of the most uncomfortable nights of my life!!!  While still at Ruth’s grandma’s house Ruth offered me a “fruit” thing.  It looked a lot like a sweet potato on the outside, but like a small shriveled one.  So I was very skeptical at first because I don’t like sweet potatoes.  Ruth told me that I should try it.  When she started to peel it the inside looked like a juicy transparent carrot.  I took a bite of it and it was actually pretty refreshing tasting so Ruth gave me half and I ate it.  Maybe about 20-30 minutes later my stomach started to churn.  I just thought it must have been something that I ate maybe the night before.  It started to get really bad and uncomfortable… the path to the bathroom was becoming well beaten by my shoes….  So… after using the restroom 3 times and eating several pills of Imodium we piled in the back of the 3 wheel motorcycle (imagine a small pick up bed on the back of a motorcycle) and headed out to the 3rd sister’s house.  We got there and I immediate had to use the restroom again.  Then maybe 30 minutes later AGAIN!  Usually taking Imodium does the trick for me and immediately makes me feel better and especially makes me stop having to use the restroom!  But for some crazy reason it wasn’t helping at all.  So then my stomach started to pinch and cramp.  I was fearful for eating anything thinking that it would just in one end and out the other… so I resisted eating as much as I could while still being polite.  Still feeling uncomfortable Susanna began to ask why I thought my stomach wasn’t doing so well.  I told her that I really had no idea… then all of a sudden Ruth said, “Oh!  Um oops”.  Come to find out that this “fruit” is a natural diarrheic and is known to clean out your system.  Pretty sure that was information that would have been useful to know BEFORE eating it.  By that night I was feeling better, but really pretty nervous about having to go use the bathroom in the middle of the night.  Luckily there was no need.  Note to self:  Stay away from crazy fruit.


    Hope by now you recognize these guys.  It’s my Chinese family!  I really love these guys so much.  This year it was so fun to feel like I was going “home” for Chinese New Year.  It was just my other “home”.  I had stayed an extra day at Susanna’s house before coming back to their house and so the last part of the hike I almost ran because I was excited to say that I was “home” again.


    Here’s a funny picture of Ruth’s dad!  He was so much more fun this year.  Last year I think he didn’t know what to do with the foreigner in his house.  This year we were able to speak (through Ruth’s translation) a lot more.  We spent one evening laughing and slightly arguing about whether it was more important for Ruth to “hurry up and get married” or to “find the right one”.  He was in the opinion that she needs to hurry… I was in the opinion that it’s better to find someone you can live the rest of your life with and be happy!  So it was fun to ask questions and twist his words a little.   We all got a good laugh out of it… and maybe he might not pressure her quite so much… maybe.  Haha.


    Here’s Susanna and her 2nd sister’s youngest daughter.  This little girl was a lot of fun to play with.  She really likes to giggle.  We had some good times with playing chase, hide and seek, throwing pea pods at each other and playing kickball.  Last year I didn’t really get to spend any time with her, so it was fun to get to this year.


    Could we be sisters?  Haha.  Maybe.  We’re excited for Tang Li and 2 of her cousins because they’re off at school this year studying the “Good Book”!  They’ve been up in Sichuan studying for a month now and are now finally starting to get used to being away from all the comforts of home.  The hardest part for them was that the first things the teachers did was take away their cell phones!  Culture shock for sure!


    The pea field!  My favorite part about eating the peas is getting to throw the pods at people.  =)


    Nice and heavy backpacks filled with peas, cabbage, Chinese broccoli and garlic bulbs.




    One of my favorite pictures!  Two sisters having a good time playing with each other!


    A few pictures dedicated to very cute and photogenic WeiWei!  How can you resist taking pictures of that cute little face with the one dimple!  This year she learned that flying (aka being throw in the air) and spinning (aka holding on to her arms and spinning around) is fun.  We played a lot of that.  Luckily, Ruth helped me to teach her “Last one, k?”!


    It’s great to get her to laugh.  This year we also worked a little bit on her throwing mechanics.  We were tossing some rocks off the mountain and working on stepping with the correct foot.  The kid has some really great potential.  With a little more work perhaps we can get her on National Team!


    And last, my favorite picture!  Great photography work by Susanna.

    It was a great couple weeks up in the village.  I can’t wait till the next time I can go back!

    Many apologies again for the long delay!  But I hope that the 25 pictures and almost 3000 word post was worth the wait!

    I’ve already got another post in the works, so hopefully it won’t be too long before that one comes up too!

    A few notes on what I’m up to right now:

    -School started again, still doing 10 hours a week.  6 hours in a classroom (with 5 classmates) and 4 hours one-on-one.  In both of my classes I have new teachers.  I really love my new classroom teacher.  I already knew her from playing badminton and seeing her around school.  Her teaching style is really great.  My one-on-one teacher still needs some fine tuning.  We’re working on trying to find the best way to use our time.  The first step is to get her to slow down a little bit!  But this last class was better than the first.

    -I made another trip down to Wenshan (where I am currently typing this) to start to furnish my new apartment.  The plan is to move down in June/July.

    Missing home especially at the start of baseball season!

    It would be great to hear from you!  =)



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