Friday, December 22, 2006


"Shangri-la - It is a dream, a mystery, and the moon and the sun in the mind of many Tibetans."

- from a guidebook found in Zhongdian, recently renamed Shangri-la County

I went with the NGO to Diqing district, northwest Yunnan, bordering Xizang and Sichuan provinces. I, a CBIK program assistant, an architect (there to give trainings for the traditional housing projects), and our Tibetan driver Ding Zhu went to three separate Tibetan villages over a course of ten days. Needless to say, it was amazing. This is what I came to China for - for its rural side, for this way of life. While I contributed little to the group, I was assured that it was ok because I could go first with them to experience "the field", since I would be going back. While my heart is still with Shaxi Township, Jianchuan County, Dali
Prefecture (a village of mainly the Bai minority), I am excited - and I don't even think the full experience of my trip has even hit me yet!!

I don't yet have the 500+ pictures that my comrades on the trip took, but I do happen to have some pictures Ding Zhu took of his home. While we didn't go there, we drove past it and I think that they're too beautiful not to post.

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Tibetans here grow mainly rice, corn, barley, wheat, rapeseed.

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I believe these pictures were taken late summer/fall.

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Tibetan prayer flags and Snow Mountain.

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Roughly translated, this is a "visitor-recieving platform," for praying,etc.

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Overlooking some homes in Ding Zhu's village. Not all Tibetan houses are the same, and not all of them use the same materials. Many of them are based on clay, wood, and some bamboo, though, and many of them are rather big. And the insides are similar too, with kitchens built for praying as well.

More will come later! I might also try to put of an MP3 of a Tibetan or Himalayan song... not sure how to do that yet, but I'll try.

Friday, December 08, 2006

getting my ass in gear (sort of)

My roommate, who is writing his thesis in history, is currently frustrated. He recently found a published article that deals with his same topic, and he is terrified that it will be exactly as he was planning to write it, which will do him nor the greater community any good.

Though I feel bad for him, hearing this story, as I was also empathizing, made me at least feel less alone. (I also had a talk with a former grantee who assured me that some of the things I’m going through have indeed been gone through before.) Yes, so my original plan was to research my topic from the rural standpoint, which would have been more interesting and “fresh” (not to mention that I wouldn’t constantly have a short temper from city life, but that’s another story). But I can still do it from the urban perspective – as in, begin some on-the-DL-interviews with migrants here. Hopefully, my roommate will be able to put a new spin on his topic as well, so that he can write his thesis without feeling like he’s copying someone.

I do have a great opportunity here, and I’m going to try to make the most of it. My plans also include partly working with The Nature Conservancy and sitting in on an economics class next semester. Hope things work out…

In other news, I am going on my very first business trip. Next week, I will be going to Deqin, Zhongdian, to Tibetan villages. (Note to self: Buy warm clothes, now!) The NGO I’m with, Center for Biodiversity and Indigenous Knowledge, has a few projects there (dealing with traditional housing, watershed governance, etc.) and I guess I’m just going along for the ride.

I suppose before I leave I should talk a little about my four-day trip to the village I was supposed/expecting to be in during my time in China. Therefore you readers don’t get everything mixed up (I know all Chinese villages all seem the same, but I’ll try to make it less painless for you). More will come later.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

more reasons why learning chinese is important

On Friday night, I had just sat down to an overly priced Italian dinner with some fellow outside-country-people. Suddenly, my phone rang, and as it is perfectly polite to speak on the phone in various settings (including in the bathroom, so THERE to everyone who thought I was a freak for doing so), I picked up and listened to the frantic sound of my Chinese friend, Zao Zao (as in, Early Early). He said something about how I had to get to him RIGHT NOW and there were some VIP tickets he had and they were $1000 RMB and they were very difficult to come by. I responded (picturing this VIP event to be a roomful of hundreds of dressed up Chinese people eating fancy food) that I had already sat down to eat, and maybe he should call his other friends. He said it probably wasn't possible, and was very resigned as he hung up the phone. He called back ten minutes later, and again I had to kindly but firmly turn him down. I found out later that he didn't go, because no one else could go.

I ALSO found out later that these tickets were not to a snuffy dinner, but actually to a rather big concert with superstars S.H.E., Jay Chou, and company. Despite the fact that I hate Jay Chou with a passion (but I am the unfortunate owner of Jay Chou bag, FREE! with my purchase of a motorola phone), I am a bit disappointed that I missed out on my chance to attend this event. My friend, Xialing, who was the one who gave me this vital information, couldn't stop laughing. "What, do they have VIP dinners in the states?" and "I can't believe he gave you those details without the definition."

Sigh. I guess I'll have to wait for the next chance to do something cool...