The Good—What We Ate
Everything we consumed in the village was absolutely amazing. Because everything comes directly from the land that the people live on, the vegetables, tofu, meat, literally everything was so fresh and delicious.
One time, this came back to bite us in the butt. On a trip to see a waterfall, Hank’s cousins began to tie up a goat. We all knew what was probably coming, but Hank solemnly introduced us to our dinner. Let me tell you—animals are REALLY smart and they know what’s coming, and we heard and saw that animal protest until it was out of our line of vision. Good goat, though. Really good.
The weirdest thing we ate was raw goat, which is a Dong specialty. It sounds bizarre and I would never think of consuming it if I was back in Guiyang or even Beijing. But because the goat is SO fresh (literally had been breathing a couple of hours before), I felt really okay about eating it and it was rather tasty!
We ate hot pot every night, but each pot was flavored differently or featured a different protein (usually pork or chicken… or goat) and while the food is prepared simply (typically stir fried with garlic, la jiao—Chinese hot peppers and spices, and salt), it’s so yummy! Oddly enough, though, one of my favorite side dishes was stir-fried peanuts. There was just something about the taste of the peanuts with a little oil and salt that was so addicting. I’m going to try and make them at home, but I’m sure it won’t be the same.
Village toilets are the pink elephant in the room. You’re ALL curious, but do you dare ask how we digested our raw goat? Well, TOO BAD! Because I’M TELLIN’ YA!
Actually, the toilet at Hank’s house was really nice! It was an actual squatty- potty (don’t even bother looking for a Western toilet out here) with a depositing system. Their version of a “flush” is a long ladle that retrieves water from the same place the waste goes into. So you’re basically recycling the same nasty water… which means you have to be SUPER careful to not splash that stuff on yourself. The other nice thing about having the “flush” is that it actually sends the waste out so that there’s less smell. Pretty clever, hm?
Other toilets were… not so nice. At Hank’s cousin’s house, just two creaky boards of wood in a little doorless outhouse kept you from plunging to your doom on a hillside. One thing I was particularly wary about was the fact that while I’m not the hugest person in the world, I am certainly bigger than the average Dong person… and those boards of wood look a little shoddy. I think Jason trained his “intestinal integrity” to never have to use this potty, but if I were him, I’d be a little worried about pulling a “Slumdog” unintentionally… with nothing to show for it afterwards!
The Ugly—Shots at 9AM
Shameless drunkenness on important holidays is one cultural trait that I think is the same across the board. The only difference is the weapon of choice, and unfortunately for us, in China, it’s good ol’ baijiu (white lightning). And if you’re in a village, it’s moonshine, baby!
Well, with it being the MOST important holiday in China, we had to oblige to their “drink your rice bowl of gasoline or we won’t give you rice” rule which led to what had the potential to be memorable moments… if anyone could remember them the next day! One thing I do remember is passing around a plastic bottle like a mic and everyone singing songs.
After New Year’s Day, I was certain the “ugly” was over… but on our last day in the village, Hank’s cousin hosted us for brunch… and baijiu. I’m all for a Bloody Mary or Mimosa over some Eggs Benedict (mmm… Eggs Benedict…), but that was just ridiculous. I punked out and just touched my lips to the stuff, but didn’t consume any knowing what sort of journey lied ahead of us. Only to be met by more shots ON the boat right before we left. Oh dear… well, there’s no way out of that one… but it did put me RIGHT to sleep!
What We Did, Who We Met, How He Worked:
Hank’s village is really beautiful. All of the houses are made of creaky, old wood and are really clean and well-built. Since they’re built on a hillside, they’re mostly multi-storied and feel like really cool tree houses with ladders connecting the floors and low ceilings.
For the most part, we walked around to surrounding areas of the village and visited relatives who all insisted on hosting us for meals. Two particularly special trips we took were to a waterfall and up the mountain to where there are more “ti tian” and Hank’s father’s burial site.
The trip up the mountain was definitely the highlight of the trip. The climb was steep, muddy, and slippery, but once we reached the top of the mountain and looked out into the valley where the village is, it felt like we were on the edge of the world. We walked along the narrow edges of the terraced fields and saw a truly unique and beautiful place. Even the photos I post won’t suffice.
We were also honored to “meet” Hank’s father, who passed away when Hank was only one year old. Hank’s testimony is truly amazing (again, a story for another time), but as we gathered around him to comfort him, he expressed how he is so sad that he has never met his dad. But his one hope is that his dad will hear the voice of the Father calling out to him so that Hank will be able to meet his dad in our glorious home in the hereafter. I was so deeply convicted that there is really nothing that our Father can’t do and there’s no such thing as it “being too late” for those who hadn’t heard.
It was a huge comfort to me to meet like-minded Chinese nationals and to see how their lives have been so dramatically affected by Father’s presence. It also reminded me exactly why I love China: the people who are brought into your life and leave you enriched and reaffirmed in merciful power, love, and grace. The novelty of being in a foreign country, the cool-looking signs, the greasy cheap food—all of that wears off and often becomes another perpetrator of culture shock or frustration, even in as short a time as six months! But He does great things because of his love for his children.
Next up: The Great Escape and Jordan’s Virgin Voyage to a Foreign Land!