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A student practices working the fields with a water buffalo. Photo by Ming-Jiu-Li, China Summer Program.

Children I met at Langmusi

By chance I found a picture book in guest house we stayed in. I took photo of each page and sought an opportunity to read it to kids I met. Interacting with kids has always been a way for me to connect with the people and places I visit.

In the monastery, I saw three kids. One girl with her younger sister on her back and another girl with space buns. Their unique eye shape and hair grabbed me immediately. I could have just taken a photo of them, but I wanted to spend some more time with them. I took out my notebook and made drawings and started to speak basic Chinese with them to see if further communication was possible (most people here speak Amdo Tibetan as their first language).

The sister tried very hard to hold a pose while having her younger sister on her back as I requested (feeling guilty…), finally I decided to finish drawing in a quick manner. We found a place in the monastery to sit and I started telling the story I prepared in my phone.

One of the girls was in second grade in elementary school and she could follow the Chinese characters in the book, and was eager to read some of the sentences. Her sister kept running around and she had to bring her back, so I asked her to sit beside me and have her sister sit on her lap. As the story went on, I noticed her Chinese was almost at the same level with other (native speaking) Chinese kids of the same age. At the end of story, we took this photo, her face was blocked by me and her younger sister, but there is light and hope from her eyes, which moved me a lot.