Exploring Lugu Lake: Stroll Around Yongning and a Stormy Hike to LJZ

I slept in till 9:30am and called the LJZ driver at 10am asking if he was leaving that afternoon. I had a hard time understanding him, but it sounded like he wasn’t going back that day. Since I was uncertain, I still decided to go to Yongning to check out my options. A private driver drove me there. He was a Black Yi who lived in the Yi village on the other side of Gemu Mountain. I was sleepy, but kept up conversation about the Yi and other minorities that live in the area. When we passed a village, he would say the name of it and which ethnic minority it hosted. I appreciated his willingness to teach me about the area. We reached Yongning within 30 minutes. I thanked him for the ride and got off.

I walked up a busy street of shops, minority vendors, and Mosuo women carrying large baskets of crops on their backs. I found a truck that looked similar to the one I took before with PM and Lidy. I asked the people around if the truck was leaving for LJZ that day. The men who were working on a nearby car were uncertain, but said there would be a bus leaving for Wujiao in the afternoon. I could get off early and hike the rest of the way. They also mentioned they knew someone with a motor bike that would take me there for free! I thought either was fine, and went back to the market to get some lunch and buy vegetables for the LJZ family.

While buying cabbage and qicai, I ran into some Lige friends at the market. They were buying vegetables for their barbecue shops. I asked about my two transportation options. They said the hike wouldn’t be that far and motorbike should overall be safe. While one of the guys wished me a safe trip, he noticed some LJZ residents pass by. He mentioned it right when they passed us, which caught their attention. I asked how there were getting back…they said either by truck or bus. We swapped numbers so we could meet up there. I thanked my Lige friend for introducing us. I’m fortunate to have people that care about me here.

I bought vegetables and grabbed some noodles for lunch. I still had a couple hours to kill, so I left the vegetables in the shop and walked around. I passed the men who were working on a car earlier playing pool. I waved, which prompted them to invite me to play a game. I made sure to point out that I’m not very good. Last time I was here, PM told me that women don’t play pool here. I looked around and saw that there weren’t any woman at all at the tables. I often try not to stand out, since I stand out already, but it’s hard to pass up a good game of pool! I grabbed a stick and played one-on-one with one of the men.

I started off poorly, but after getting in my first ball, I kept getting better. The guy seemed to get over excited and shoot the ball off the table, which brought more of his balls out of the pockets and onto the table. A crowd began to form around us, mainly watching the strange white girl playing pool. At the end, I was winning. I only had to put the 8-Ball and then win! The man began to get embarrassed and nervous, which upset his game. I then got the 8-Ball in and won the game! The crowd made an “aaaw” sound (think more old Chinese man saying it, then a girl looking at a cute puppy saying it). I got a picture with my adversary. He was a good sport! I decided it was time to find the bus. I grabbed my veggies and headed to the bus area.

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The Winner is the that White Girl–in Yongning, Yunnan

I ran into the LJZ men, two people older and one being younger, who told me I still had an hour or so. They let me leave my stuff at their friend’s shop. While they went to the market to eat, I went in the opposite direction to the local temple. I ran into two older men that were going to the temple, who then showed me the way. We cut through fields and finally entered the sanctuary. It was small, but very pretty. The earthquake from the year previous destroyed many parts of the temple, but the local people were able to reconstruct it within the year. Very impressive!

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Stroll with Local Mosuo Elders to the Temple

I walked in and out of the many different parts of the temple and then entered the main hall. One of the older men taught me how to enter a Tibetan temple correctly. I walked to the left (clockwise), lit a candle, placed the candle on the front table, then walked clockwise along the glass (the back wall that has all the god statues) where I would show my respects. I thanked him for his kindness, sat with him and his friends for a bit before heading back to the bus.

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Inside the Main Hall

I got to the bus in the knick of time. The LJZ men said that we would get off the bus before Wujiao and hike the rest of the way to the village. I was fine with it and joined them for the ride. The bus was crammed with people, bags, supplies, and chickens in boxes. I went in and out of sleep for the duration of the ride…

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Bus to Wujiao–Bags of Food, Boxes of Chickens, and a Backpack

When we passed an Yi village, which I had recognized from the time before, I got off with the guys. We then began our hike to LJZ. We crossed a river, passed multiple villages, and walked along a dirt road for a period of time before we took a long rest. The younger Mosuo man ran off to buy beverages for his buddies and came back with milk for me. I thought that was very kind. They talked amongst themselves while I observed the scenery. Mosuo women worked in the fields or carried their children along the road. They would laugh when they’d see me and say something to the guys. I just smiled and waved.

After the rest, we continued on our way to LJZ. I noticed in the distance dark clouds were rolling in. I mentioned to the guys that it may rain. They laughed it off and said it doesn’t rain this time of the year. About 20 minutes later, a heavy layer of rain fell on us, as well as lightning and thunder booming in all directions. We kept our pace and hoped for the storm to pass quickly. I pretended not to be afraid of the storm, but I was frightened because we were the tallest objects in the flat field at the time. I crossed my fingers the mountains would deter the lightning.

IMG_1158Hike to LJZ–The Storm Clouds Rolling in

The storm passed after an hour and then LJZ became visible in the distance. Before we knew it (meaning around 2-3 hours), we were in the village splitting ways to seek our homes. I hoped that the family that hosted me the time before would be okay with me visiting again. I followed familiar trails and finally found the beautiful home once again. I opened the main gate and walked into the courtyard. One of the daughters saw me first and giggled. She ran back to tell her Aunt I was here. I did not have any way of telling them I was coming, so it was unexpected. They were very welcoming and let me into their home. I came in right when there were eating dinner. I ate radish pig soup with rice. I then showed the kids my new drawings and asked them if they could draw for me. Each took there turn as they drew in my sketchbook. It was cool to see what they drew:

1) the younger daughter drew a field of diverse flowers with her in the middle holding one. She also drew clouds (which I taught her), mountains, and a two-story Mosuo home.
2) the youngest brother lost his patience and left his page with clouds and an unfinished house.
3) the oldest sister drew herself wearing a skirt for the “coming of age” ceremony she celebrated this past spring festival.

In Mosuo culture, when a child hits the age of 13, that is when they have their coming of age ceremony. It is 13 because the number represents the end of the first zodiac cycle in their lives and the beginning of a new one. I watched as she drew herself wearing the skirt and wearing lots of flowers on her shirt, hair, and feet. She was excited and proud to draw the event.

The uncle observed us drawing and asked if I could help him do something. I said sure. He scurried away to grab something. He came back a few minutes later with a tote bag. He walked over to me, I was on the lower hearth, and he showed me old paper tablet paintings. He said his grandfather drew them and that they were over 100 years old. They were wearing and tearing at this point. He asked if I could help redraw them. I looked at the beautiful art and said I could try. I asked what they were for. He explained how when the Daba priests perform ceremonies, they hang these up. So, the drawings related to Daba religion–the tablets were ritual art. I also noticed some were of Lamas praying with Tibetan written on them. The Mosuo’s religious life is a combination of the local religion and Tibetan Buddhism.

He thanked me and told me he’d tell me more the next day. I went to bed soon afterwards. I was placed in the same room as before, but this time I’ll be by myself without a twin sister, PM, and Lidy. I’ll be alone for this field trip. I’m a bit nervous, but look forward to the experience. This is what I’ll be doing for the rest of the year…so I have to get used to it.

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