Current Location: Lijiang (丽江)
Miles traveled: 1318 (approximately)
When we travel, we sometimes form strong relationships with the people of our host country. So when the opportunity came for me to return to the Nan Yao village (南尧村), where I stayed in a homestay two years ago, I immediately made sure I would do everything to make it possible.
Waking up in Lijiang’s Old Town, I quickly grabbed some traditional Naxi Baba bread for breakfast and headed to the Zhongyi Market, where I bought some peaches and cookies for homestay family gifts. The bus from the Old Town to the village took about an hour, and included a stop for gas in between.
Arriving in the village, it is amazing how one’s sense of direction can be rekindled in the most remote of places. Although each little street in the village is not on a map, it was easy for me to find all of the “landmarks” in the village, even though the last time I visited was a year ago. First stop on the village tour was the homestay family of a fellow student, who had left the village just one week ago. Through the marvels of modern technology, I was able to bring her in the U.S. together with the family in the village, was was a very cool moment. After dropping off a bag of peaches, I headed to my homestay family. I was greeted by my now 95-year-old grandpa, who although has trouble seeing, seemed to remember who I was. Through his thick accent, I was able to make out some of the questions he tried to ask me: “How long are you here? Are you traveling?”
My homestay mother and her two-year-old granddaughter shortly followed (for those of you who remember, the granddaughter celebrated her one month birthday the night I arrived for my homestay — you can read that story here). The hospitality and friendliness of the village has left a profound impact on me ever since I left. Within minutes, I was served a warm cup of tea and a bowl of fried rice, and proceeded to eat with the granddaughter. Returning to this village has become a sort of yearly routine for me, so it was great to be back and see the changes on a local level.
After saying goodbye to my homestay family, I headed up to the village elder’s house. While he was not there at the moment, tea was promptly served by his daughter and I was instructed to wait until he came back from the fields with his wife. They were surprised to see me in their house, as I had not told them I was coming. Again, lunch was promptly served and we talked about the recent student groups who have visited. I feel that we owe an immense amount of gratitude to this village for opening up their homes for students, and no amount of cookies can express our appreciation for them. I hope we can continue coming to Nan Yao for years to come, as I always feel welcome there every year I return.
I left the village elder’s house and went on a short hike to the village’s water source, a waterfall in the mountains. We did a trash pickup service project there two years ago, and I was pleased to see that there was less waste around the area.
I did one final was through the village and walked to the bus stop at the bottom of the hill. According to the village elder, there are only 3 buses that run the hour-long route each way, so one must wait up to 40 minutes for the bus. I asked a tour guide who was leading a horse tour group if he knew when the bus would come. “马上!” “Immediately!” he responded. It turns out his “马上” would be another 16 minutes, but I appreciated the time to catch a glimpse of the slow pace of life in the village. After arriving in Lijiang, I took a walk around the Old Town, had dinner, and bought some specialty rose cakes.
Today was a historic day for me. It was the day I returned back to my village home in rural China and strengthened my connections with the local people. I can’t wait until I have another opportunity to return to Nan Yao.
I leave Lijiang early tomorrow for a day in Kunming, where I will be meeting with old friends and hopefully making some new ones.
Next stop: Kunming. ETA: Sunday morning China time.
Enjoy the photos from today below!
(Special thanks to Ella for all her support today!)