Exploring Lugu Lake: Sunrise, Talking about the Middle East, and Going to a Remote Village

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Lugu Lake at Sunrise

The entire room of four bunks woke up to the banging of symbols and drums at five in the morning. We were sharing a room with the French anthropologist, PM, and a Chinese girl in her twenties. The drums and symbols would come in intervals of around three minutes…just like the snooze on an alarm clock. But, this alarm clock could not be turned off. I rolled around multiple times until I gave up falling back asleep and got up. From underneath her sheets, PM told us this was a New Year’s ritual. The monks came all the way from the temple to bless each household in the area. The intervals were the monks walking to the next household. Molly (who had waken up too) and I both thought it was pretty cool to hear their system of entering the New Year. However, the Chinese girl on PM’s top bunk was not having it. She was whining and crying, saying how they could be making such a racket so early in the morning. PM explained to her it was a ceremony, but she didn’t care. She wanted to go back to sleep.

This is a small example of the difference between Western and Chinese tourists. Chinese tourists often seek comfort when they travel. So, even though this Chinese girl was experiencing a unique introduction to Mosuo culture, she didn’t care. It didn’t even cross her mind. I think Western backpackers would instead wake up and investigate–like what Molly and I did!

We got dressed and walked out onto the dark cobblestone street. I saw that the mountain range in the distance had a thin layer of gold peaking through. The sun would rise soon. The monks had moved away from the hostel and were hidden in the alleyways. We could still hear the clanging of drums and symbols as it bounced off the houses and mountains. We then moved towards the lakeshore and awaited the sun rise.

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Tourists Taking a Boat to the Middle of the Lake 

We could have paid 10yuan to take a boat with the other tourists to the middle of the lake, but we just relaxed on the shore. It was a beautiful sight…

Afterwards, we joined an Algerian for some breakfast. We talked about being foreigners in China. He lived in Beijing pursuing a Ph.D at one of the universities. We then brought up stereotypes. Molly and I joked around with our American identities as we throw in obnoxious accents while talking to him. He laughed and talked about how people don’t normally have a fundamental understanding of Islam in China, or even in the US. Bouncing of this, Molly brought up a funny story that I thought I would share:

When I was in elementary school, there was a girl named Rukia. One day at lunch, I sat next to her and started devouring my lunch. I noticed she didn’t have anything in front of her, so I thought I would share my sandwich and applesauce. But, Rukia said she couldn’t eat because it was a special holiday. I was flabbergasted and responded, “There’s a holiday where you DON’T EAT?! What kind of holiday is that?” She explained to be the meaning of Ramadan. I thought it was cool, and also she got out of lunch early to go to recess…so I did it with her for the rest of the week!

The Algerian thought that was really funny. He then brought up the tensions in the Middle East and the influence of the “Arab Spring.” He also talked about North Africa’s and Middle East’s relationship with Israel. I do not normally have the opportunity to talk to people from this part of the world, so I thought it was great to listen to his side of the issue. He was a very friendly man, I would never imagine him being cold, or impolite to anyone. But, he said that he would not be friendly with an Israeli. Algeria and Israel’s relationship is very contentious, which showed in his response. I thought about what he said and realized that I do not have any of those kinds of feelings towards a country’s people. No matter where someone is from, or what they believe, I would treat them the same. So, hearing this from someone so friendly and understanding, was eye-opening. That kind of feeling of animosity is something I do not understand.

I grew up in a country where the media promoted hatred between “us” (the US) and the “Muslim World,” but that never affected me. I wonder how Algerian media represents Israel? What led to such contentious relations to the point that the Algerian man can’t even talk to an Israeli? This may be something I’ll need to investigate after studying Chinese culture. The Middle East and North Africa is a part of the world I am not familiar with at all. Next language on my list: Arabic!

It was time to meet PM at the hostel. We said our goodbyes, shared numbers, and went on our ways. PM invited us to join her and her good friend/informant, Lidy, to a remote village that was 3-4 hours away from Lugu Lake. We joined them and their friend, who owned a car, to the neighboring small city, Yongning, where we would catch a truck to the village. We had a couple of hours to spare, so we walked around the market and talked with locals. Afterwards, we sat in the sun, waiting and waiting for the truck to come. He finally did and we were off to the remote village of LJZ.

We bumped along a dirt road for 3 hours, stopping at places where he dropped off supplies to other villages. At one point, we stopped at an Yi village. I hopped off to find a nice grassy area to go to the bathroom and then walked around the village. I ran into older Yi women who were wearing large black headdresses. The headdresses are so eye-catching…large, black fabric creates circle behind their heads. Their black garb matches with the headdress, which adds to the aesthetic. It’s really a beautiful outfit.

I did a full circle around the village until I reached the truck again. That was our last stop until the final destination, LJZ. We finally made it to the village right before sunset. PM and Lidy led us to the house we would be staying in…it was beautiful: two stories with a courtyard in the middle! The family had just finished dinner and ushered us in. We ate dried pork and fish in a soup, potatoes, and rice. We were then escorted to our rooms where Molly and I fell asleep like babies…it was a long day!

It wouldn’t be until later in the night when I’d realize eating the pork and fish soup was a bad choice…

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