I am currently writing this Yak from the bustling kitchen of my host mom’s sister’s house. Relatives, friends, and neighbors gather as eggplants and mushrooms of all shapes and sizes sizzle in giant pots on the stove top. The vibrant environment I am engulfed in grows as everyone gathers to celebrate the Naxi holiday.
The last few days here in Nanyao have been a blur. We all have settled into our new homes, met our new families, and experienced the dramatic contrast of an urban to rural environment. Over the past few days, I have fallen in love with the rainy, calm, and peaceful town of Nanyao where we all live minutes from each other on foot. Nan Yao consists of an array of homes connected to each other by small allies, three small stores, a basketball court, a school, and our program house. Despite the contrast between the environments of Kunming and Nanyao, my transition has been an extremely smooth one. I was immediately welcomed by two wonderful host parents, and two older sisters in their twenties. My host family’s home, like the rest of our families, is built around a large courtyard. Around the courtyard are various rooms, a kitchen, a bathroom, and an animal pen. My family has twelve chickens, one giant pig, a rooster, five horses, and is also home to the sweetest dog.
Over the past few days, we have enjoyed our language classes while participating in different activities each afternoon. Tuesday afternoon, we embarked on a walk to another village where we took shelter from the rain in a covered trampoline. Once under shelter, we took time to reflect on the last few weeks and shared stories from our lives. Wednesday afternoon, we visited the local market in Nanyao before engaging in a fascinating discussion on economics and business led by Jake. Additionally, we recently started personal challenges to speak in only Mandarin for the first few hours of the day. Overall, we have kept ourselves busy here in Nanyao as we continue to explore something new everyday.
As I am writing this story in my journal in the busy kitchen, trying to recall as much information as possible while squeezing my experience into a few paragraphs, a girl approaches me and looks over at my writing. The little girl, probably around the age of seven, asks me in perfect Mandarin if she can try writing something in english. I nod my head, and hand her the paper and my pen. “Ni keyi xie?” (Can you write?) I ask, watching her stare at the blank piece of paper. In the center of my lined journal, she draws a flower with my pen. “Hen piaoliang”, (it’s beautiful), I say, and she nods in agreement as we stare at her flower.