Robert: It’s not that H1n1 is that bad—the propaganda’s just that good!September 28, 2009
Getting ready for a week of (working) vacation. Being stuck in a classroom for most of the day gets a little old after a while– I can do that at home, no?
Had a rowdy Friday night singing KTV until almost 7a.m., and then started getting plans to go to Xishuangbanna together during Saturday and Sunday. Finally broke down and got a flu-mask for all the bus travel I’ll be doing here. That part takes some getting used to; it initially comes off like a paranoid sci-fi movie until you see the hilarious patterns they print on them, worn by about every one in five people. Then you realize the Chinese do not mess around with pandemic disease anymore, and those decades of propaganda experience cajole you into joining the mouthless masses. They’re quarantining H1N1 patients up in Chengdu, which sounds like no fun at all.
Especially since the National Day holiday week starts tomorrow. This year is the 60th anniversary of the revolution, and 30% of all Chinese tourists (12 million is the estimated number) are supposedly coming to Yunnan to eat mooncakes, go to the stone forest (amongst other uber-touristy attractions Yunnan has to offer), and generally muck up every conceivable mode of transportation. I got my ticket as early in advance as possible, so tomorrow night I leave on an overnight bus that gets to Yuanyang at 2 a.m. hopefully ahead of that wave. Fun Times, I’m sure. After a few weeks of really just keeping my nose in a book and working on improving my language skills, I almost feel unprepared to stop working and spend a week traveling around. I’m sure I’ll get used to it pretty quick.
I’m going to spend most of the next 8 days more or less wandering wherever through Xishuangbanna, the southern region of Yunnan that borders on Laos and Burma. I’ll probably stay closer to the Burmese border this time, maybe working my way from Jinghong down the Mekong River. It might get a little rainy, but it’s supposed to be about 90˚F most of the time, so a little rain could be nice. Anti-malarials? Check. 40% DEET? Check.
The rice harvest is mostly done in that region, but the terraces are supposed to be beautiful year-round, and of course there’s always tea and any number of other crops going into the fall. I’m planning on stopping in Pu’er, home of Yunnan’s legendary tea of the same name. The fermented version is sublime; it has an earthiness to it that’s a little peaty, with just the slightest bitterness to an otherwise clean finish. And it’s a gorgeous amber. A good bit of that will be coming back with me, for sure.
So this week I’ll mainly be on the lookout for a community to come back to visit in November, particularly one with a good mix of self-cultivated, local, and commercial foods contributing to their diet. But who knows what I’ll find. There are all kinds of great folk traditions surrounding swidden agriculture, water, forests, and food in this region. And elephants and tigers. Now just let me find a capuchin monkey and my bullwhip.