China Re-mix.

man w pig2 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. Solemn Little Beauty

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.

little princess 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).landscape

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)…Yi hat

… 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

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 women of Fuxing & me.

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.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn 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)

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. skepticalBut more than anything, I had the same epiphany I had in every Heifer country I visited last year — Leader

… that the poverty we don’t see around us is still there … Grand-daughter

… that animals are beautiful and full of potent power to change the trajectory of a family’s life .. that pig

… and there is literally nothing more universally beautiful than a smile.daughterTo follow me through the pages of yesteryear (in China) click on a story:

Categories: Animals, Children, China, Farming, Heifer International, Hunger, Photography, Poverty, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

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18 thoughts on “China Re-mix.

  1. Laura

    Having traveled to both megacities and rural China, I experienced much the same.

    THANK YOU Betty for admitting your reservations and then so poignantly sharing universal desires for all people!

    • Laura, I know you have spent a lot of time in China and have a special appreciation for the culture and people since your son lives there, so I’m happy that you felt I did the country justice. Americans have a lot of fear and trepidation about the Chinese, since they are an emerging superpower and our competition, but I always think it’s important to realize that as people, we share far more than whatever politics separates us!

  2. Mary Yee

    Wonderful post, Betty. What great photos; I especially love the shot of the piglet.

  3. Amy

    The piglet, me too….it made me see what inspired the artist who did the piglet ballerina in a recent series of kid’s books…..You photographed (in this case let’s not say “shot”) the people of China–in places where it would seem that greed does not rule now.
    Thank you.

    • Oh, I LOVED Olivia the piglet!! Lulu and I read all those books. I always found pigs to be incredibly photogenic and also super expressive. They are hilarious! And yes, it was a totally different experience
      to be in the countryside of China than in the cities — the standard of living was so different, and
      the people were much more open.

  4. Deb Morrow Palmer

    Thanks Betty. I know how hard it is to stay away from stereo-typing. You are so right about the basic drive in poverty areas is to work hard for a better life for their families. Especially the countries not accustomed to being given supplement from the government. I wish I could say in Appalachia all the families I worked with were on that level, but some were into drugs and not worried about the children they brought into the world. They never missed a beat on what the government was suppose to be doing for them. I am happy to say hat the good people out weighed the bad and is the reason I went back so many years.

    • Boy, that is really true in Appalachia – and I have to say, it WAS difficult to maintain a defense
      of some welfare programs when you see the generations of dependency that have risen up in response
      to that. The latest battleground is aid to the disabled — which appears to be enabling a ton of people
      who are simply overweight (or diagnosed with non-specific maladies) to a fairly big monthly supplement,
      and prohibits them from working. Really, really discouraging to see that. Would love to hear more
      about your work in Appalachia, Deb — thanks for the insightful comment!!

  5. Phenomenal, Betty! Breathtaking and awe-inspiring! Thank you!


  6. Meredith

    it is so good that you are ‘revisiting’ each country and adding some at-a-distance perspective; obviously you haven’t changed your initial excitement of being in each country and meeting such wonderful folk. And the more we get to know one another the more we find we have in common; thank you for sharing.

  7. Thanks, Meredith! I do find it’s really interesting to go back and think through what my most tangible memories of each country were — and why. Plus, I always love to cruise thru all my photos again and use the ones that didn’t make the first cut!!

  8. Always beautiful pictures, amazing. So I have a question. How do you converse, get through the language barriers? I love the circle which seems in a barn setting and cooking. Thanks.

  9. Hey Kim!!
    I always have a translator with me — usually one of the Heifer staff who speaks English as well as the native language. In China, we had two translators, one who spoke Yi to Mandarin, then the Heifer guy who spoke Mandarin to English. The tribal languages are always the trickiest!! But it’s amazing how quickly you seem to transcend the language barrier when you’re all sitting around smiling at each other!

  10. And who could resist your smile!

    • That was the most fun meal we had in the courtyard overlooking all the pretty fields. Those Chinese women really throw DOWN the food — we had about 15 different dishes and each one was beautiful and delicious (except I didn’t taste the blood soup — obviously!) xoxoxox b

  11. These are lovely photos Betty, especially the portrait photos. I missed out on visiting the vilages on my brief travels of China so really enjoyed this post.

    • Thanks so much Janaline — I really appreciate it!! I can’t wait to check out your posts… and I am really glad that I did get to the villages of China. It gave me such a different perspective!!

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