Lying between the shining lake Er Hai and the towering Cangshan Peak is Dali, an ancient city full of beauty and history, and where we have stayed for the past five days. Whereas most groups would have had to stay in a hotel we were lucky enough to stay in the Dali Eco House, a zero waste guest house and community center run by our instructor, Patricia. The Eco house is in a small Bai Ethnicity village just north of the Dali Old City, and at the foot of the mountains. I was very struck by the positive energy that seemed to flow through the Eco House, starting in the garden where herbs and fruit trees grew freely, into the kitchen where a large pantry housed every imaginable ingredient contained in reusable glass jars, and up to the bedroom where light streamed in through large windows onto a large bamboo sleeping platform. Arriving here, was like reaching an oasis where the noise and crowds of the city can’t reach.
One of my favourite things about the eco house are two of its inhabitants, Dan Dan and Tuan Zi, a mother cat and her playful kitten who never ceased to be adorable. Another thing I really loved about the Eco House was the bamboo and wood sleeping platform, on which all eight boys slept, since there is no mattress we used bed rolls which were actually extremely comfortable. Every night I was so excited to sleep on that bed and every morning it was an effort to tear myself away from it.
We were lucky enough to be able to participate in one of the Eco Houses’ community events which occur every Tuesday. This Tuesday we led the community event! One group presented on the United States education system, and the other group presented on American cuisine and cooking. I was in the food group so that is what I will talk about, we taught our guests how to cook pancakes and garlic bread, and also how to make limeade (there were no lemons at the market). They were all very excited to learn how to cook new foods and it was very fun to work together to make good food. The guests really seemed to like the pancakes and garlic bread but thought that the limeade was far to sour. After the presentations everyone gathered in the kitchen to prepare dishes that they had brought, and we proceeded to eat a delicious meal in the garden with everyone talking and laughing happily. It’s amazing that in just over a year Patricia has been able to create such a wonderful community.
After the event two of the guests, an American named Garett and a local named Coco, told us about a waterfall that we could swim in not too far from the Eco House and offered to take us there. It was very beautiful, the waterfall was in a narrow green valley between two of Dali’s peaks. The part that we could swim in was amazing, it was a small but very clear pool shaded by bamboo and vines, best of all not only could we swim there we could also jump from a rock down into the pool. Rock jumping is something that I have always wanted to do but never had the chance to, I was scared the first time but once I got used to it it was so much fun. I didn’t even mind the fact that I would have to wear the same wet clothes the rest of the night.
Overall, Dali is a wonderful place, and I wish that I could stay here at the Eco House forever.