Having dutifully swallowed all the negative publicity we’ve been served up in this country about China (and added some of my own piquant paranoia) — it began to seem like a place I would never want to go.
But once I got to China, on my fourth month of traveling for Heifer International, I found it was much like any other place on the planet: filled with beautiful people working hard to make their lives and the lives of their children a little bit easier, sweeter, and more secure.
I spent my time in Sichuan province, in the western part of China. It is a place of big, impersonal cities and lovely contemplative country-sides– but no, I didn’t stop to see any pandas (sigh).
However, I did experience the incredible ethnic groups of the Yi people (the women are intensely fabulous, with headdresses right out of the Witches of Eastwick)…
… And I met the kindest, most gentle AIDS mother making a living with her Heifer pigs for her three young children …
Waqi Wunin, my personal heroine
…and I visited a small village making a big comeback from the terrible earthquake of 2010, despite it being populated almost solely by women my age (probably a good bit younger).
The intrepid women of Fuxing Village & me.
And of course, I was served some totally amazing food – and ate my wimpy vegetarian share of it.In China, I had the unique opportunity to sit down and talk to ordinary rural Chinese people who were struggling to cope with life outside the megalopolis–and whose stories turned out to be riveting.
A circle of trust (and roasted potatoes)
I also realized that I wasn’t the only one who was perhaps a little skeptical of the foreigner. But more than anything, I had the same epiphany I had in every Heifer country I visited last year —
… that the poverty we don’t see around us is still there …
… that animals are beautiful and full of potent power to change the trajectory of a family’s life ..
… and there is literally nothing more universally beautiful than a smile.To follow me through the pages of yesteryear (in China) click on a story: