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From Nanyao to Tiger Leaping Gorge

Written on: July 12, 2019

The clouds hung over the hills and it rained every day during our stay in Nanyao. The rain came and it went throughout each day, giving us enough time to harness each dry moment and use it to hike, play games, walk around the village, and learn Dongba dance. The sound of the rain was a backdrop to Mandarin lessons, an excuse to stay in and play Mahjong with our homestay families, a gift for the surrounding flora, and a lullaby at night.

Our time in Nanyao seemed to go by quickly. Even so, the several days that we stayed in homestays, situated in the hills around Lijiang, gave us all an opportunity to slow down. I particularly enjoyed listening to each student express their observations about life in the village and how it has inspired them to take a more thoughtful approach to life back home.

For me, returning to Nanyao in a new season meant focusing on new patterns of life and taking in new details. It meant reconnecting and sharing my experience, navigating to new heights, and a new kind of growth. One of my favorite parts of being a Dragons instructor, is the opportunity to return. Arriving somewhere for the first time is beautiful, exciting, and ignites some sort of magic. Arriving somewhere for the second, third, or fourth time, you begin to weave into the fabric of life in a certain space, you know the tricks and can better facilitate the magic, you may even see beyond the beauty and deeper into the spirit of a place. You offer more critical thinking and creativity.

There was no fruit on the trees last winter when I arrived in the village. Now, with the rain, came trees ripe with plums, apples, apricots, peaches, walnuts, and more. After meals, we reached into the branches  or used a long stick to harvest a sweet treat. Dehydrated fruit was a common snack, homemade in nearly every house. One student observed the time, labor, and commitment that was spent in order to have just one bite. He said, “I never thought much about the farmer who grew my food until now. Their hard work should be more appreciated.” Another student remarked that Amazon prime is a luxury we might need to re-evaluate if we want to adopt a more thoughtful way of living.

Not only has Nanyao offered us a different pace of life and fresh fruit, is also offered us a sense of community. Many of our students admired the way locals showed up at each other’s homes unannounced and the hospitality that was displayed even at the most inconvenient times for guests to arrive. I have admired our group for their own application of community. While many have stated that they want to bring home with them a new way of hosting guests and interacting with their community, I have observed them crafting their own unique hospitality for each other within the group.

This afternoon, we left Nanyao in a dry moment. The rain stopped and gave us space to say our goodbyes and part the village in transition towards the second half of our course.

We have arrived in Tiger Leaping Gorge, where the jagged mountain tops humble us and a hike awaits.