Doing Fieldwork in LJZ: Shepherding Pigs, Building Houses, Encountering Uncommon Vendors–Everyday Life in the Village

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Leading the Pigs to the Fields

I woke up this morning with an upset stomach, but nothing compared to my previous visit. I went downstairs to eat breakfast, which included fried dough with yak butter tea. The son was chilling in the living area, sitting next to me on the upper hearth. I asked him what he had planned for the day. He replied, “I’m shepherding the pigs…” his eyes suddenly became wide, “do you want to join me?” I was a bit cautious because my stomach was upset, but I really wanted to join him. I agreed and grabbed a few things (sketchbook, fieldwork journal, camera, pen, and water).

We went to the animal stall to call out the pigs. I felt dumb, I didn’t know how to begin with shepherding, but the son helped me through the process. He got the group together and motioned me where to walk. I was  in the front of the herd. We walked along a dirt path that passed the house and went to the fields in the west. We planned to meet four other family’s pigs in the field.

I got the hang of guiding the pig quickly. We found the families halfway to our destination. We walked together to a valley with two streams and no exit for the pigs except for where we entered. In total, there were two old women and eight to ten children (ages ranged from 5-14). The elders and children usually have this responsibility because shepherding doesn’t exert that much energy. When we reached the valley, we set up camp by a stone wall next to the stream.

The son brought up to the other children that I could draw. They immediately asked to see my work and then wanted me to draw for them. I’m glad I brought my sketchbook! Drawing is such a great way to communicate and share with each other. I drew the children and me in the valley together, and then I passed the sketchbook to one of the kids. I love watching them draw, especially to see what they imagine before putting it on paper.

After a while, I noticed the children moved to a wooden shed in the distance. I excused myself to the grandmothers and walked up the hill to the shed. I found the kids playing in the deserted place. I pulled out my camera, which made them very excited. They wanted their picture taken! The son loves taking pictures, so he helped take a couple shots with me and the children. We played games, like something similar to duck, duck, grey duck (or goose), and then adventured into the mountains. The children held my hand as they frolicked through the hills. We circled round the valley, crossed the streams, washed our faces and hands in the water, and climbed some more. When we locked hands, it turned into a game. The person in the front would run fast to make the rest of the line rush behind him/her. The girls would scream in delight and I would make an awkward squeak…I was afraid I would fall! I’m not as nimble as them.

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Shepherding Kings and Queens–The LJZ Children

(My favorite part of this picture is the boy at the bottom who looks disinterested and doesn’t know how to do a piece sign. So cute! Aren’t the girls the most adorable things ever?)

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Playing Local Duck, Duck, Grey Duck  (Photo Taken by Host Family’s Son)

We returned back to the camp to eat some boiled potatoes for lunch. A 14 year-old joined us. We had conversation for the rest of the time I was there. She knows Lidy and PM. We talked about them and then I moved the conversation about her. She first asked, “Do you think LJZ is fun?” I said, of course! I enjoy it here because everyone is nice. She responded, “I don’t think there is anything fun here.” she explained how she stopped going to school after the fourth grade because she had to take care of her family, primarily her grandmother. She shepherds pigs everyday and takes care of her grandmother. Her older sisters are out of town working. She wants to work when she is 15, so next year. She doesn’t know what she’ll do yet.

The children called for us to go back to camp to eat porridge. After that, I joined the 14 year-old back to the village. She had to make lunch for her grandmother and I promised the other night that I would help with building a family’s house. We shepherded the pigs back to the path and split ways at the village.

I returned home to drop a few things off. The young man who helped me hike to LJZ was there visiting the family again. I showed him my drawings and the paper tablet I copied for the uncle. He was impressed! I then went to the neighboring house to help with construction.

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Inside the Construction Site–Shovels, Plows, Levies, and Pounding Stick

I threw myself in and started shoveling wet dirt into buckets that would be levied up to the men on the wall. I worked for more than an hour before it was time to take a break. While I sipped peach juice and ate a dumpling, a loud speaker suddenly was heard in the distance. I asked what it was. The older brother of the host family, Sonna, said it was a vendor selling vegetables. He doesn’t normally come. I asked him how to say, “do you want to buy vegetables with me?” in the Mosuo language. I wanted to ask my host mom. When he did, I raced to the house to inform them of the vendor. The son and his mother (who visits everyday) came with me. When we arrived, the truck was surrounded by villagers.

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Happiness–Uncommon Vendor Sells Vegetables During the Dry Season

We bought lots of greens. I payed for it all, it was least I could do for the family for letting me stay in their home. The sellers included two men, a Han and a Mongolian. I talked with the Han man for a while. He mentioned it was his first time coming to this village and that it would be his last. He said, “it’s too remote and poor.” I explained that I like it for its people, which he agreed. “People from remote areas are incredibly hospitable.” I agreed with him.

After buying the veggies, we walked back to the house. I dropped the greens in their storage room (which had lots of dead, flat pigs, which they preserve for its fatty meat…I think that’s what got me sick last time). I then returned to the home next door to work on the wall. I worked for another hour until the family called it a night. I joined them in their home to drink soda and tea. I sat with the men again. This time they were more talkative, which was relieving.

I excused myself early, since I told my host family I would eat with them. I wasn’t expecting such a hesitant response from the family. They kept insisting me to stay and even asked the older brother, Sonna, to convince me to stay. He said that the family wouldn’t care if I didn’t eat with them. I felt a bit embarrassed, since I already said goodbye to the people in the living room. I insisted on going back, which they allowed after some coaxing.

When I got back, the family had already eaten, and didn’t expect me to come back for dinner. I felt more embarrassed, I should have stayed at the other home! But the host mom started frying vegetables in a clay pot over a fire pit and boiling soup, saying it wasn’t a problem at all. In the end, I’m glad I came back because I had a dinner-full of vegetables and learned more of the Mosuo language. They taught me how to count! Their number system only goes up to 113. The uncle explained to me why, but the answer got lost in translation. What I got out of it is that someone in the past decided that 113 would be their max number. (However, I learned later in Lugu Lake that the number system does go over 113. Maybe it’s a local custom or maybe they don’t normally need to count beyond that number?)

I talked with the family and bit longer and then headed to bed at 9pm. This day started off a bit hard with the food poisoning, but it ended on a good note. I felt like I did a lot and learned a lot. In the morning, I was thinking about when I would go back to Lijiang to catch a train, but now I feel more comfortable living here. I need to stay strong! I will find my place in this society if I keep optimistic and friendly.

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Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Doing Fieldwork in LJZ: Shepherding Pigs, Building Houses, Encountering Uncommon Vendors–Everyday Life in the Village

  1. This all sounds amazing! I want to help build houses, too 🙂

  2. You got it twin sista!! Just keep being yourself. ❤

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