My Wonderfull Experiences in Yunnan
Trip Title: Visit Chen's Family in Yunnan Yuxi
Trip Date: 18th June-25th June 09
Written by James Brown (SCIC Medicine & Tai Chi Student)
After I had completed my three-month language and medicine course with SCIC Beijing, Chen Lei kindly gave me the opportunity to spend a week in Yunnan province, with his family in his hometown of Yuxi.
Yunnan Province is the southern-most province of China and it's called the 'Eternal Springtime' province on account of its welcoming climate. After flying down to the regional capital of Kunming I was shown around the city by Chen and his friends. I had the chance to try out a famous Yunnanese dish called 'Cross-bridge rice noodles', where a large bowl of noodles is brought to the table and egg, vegetables and meats are variously added and mixed in. The result is a very delicious meal, although somewhat spicy to an English person! Yunnanese cooking is traditionally very spicy, which does take some getting used to, although some of their best dishes involve a lot of spices. Another great experience was going out at night for street-snacks – this means sitting with friends around a low table, sampling various dishes and enjoying the night atmosphere.
Chen also took me to an ethnic minorities park in Kunming. China has fifty-six different ethnic groups that make up the total population. Han is the largest group, but many Chinese are a mixture of ethnicities, and Yunnan is the home of twenty-six different minorities. At the park we explored 'villages', each devoted to a different ethnic group, and saw a wonderful stage show that had many different types of music and vibrant costumes. It was a great place to explore Chinese heritage and culture.
After leaving Kunming I travelled to Chen's hometown of Yuxi. I had a wonderful time there, as his family were very kind and welcoming. They took great care of me and ensured that I was always well-fed! I had the chance to visit many members of Chen's family and was welcomed into their homes as a friend.
While in Yuxi we also went to different local temples, and on one day we went fishing in a local river. I had never been fishing before so Chen's father showed me the ropes, and I caught five fish! We ate them later in the day for lunch and dinner – nothing tastes quite like food you’ve caught yourself.
As a foreigner in China I'm used to people looking at me and saying hello as we pass in the street. In Yuxi this was even more the case as I think many people had never seen a foreigner before, as I attracted a great many stares as I walked around! On one particular occasion Chen and I went to pick up his cousin from the local school. Waiting in the schoolyard for class to be dismissed I was soon surrounded by curious children all staring at the strange foreigner in their midst. Some of them said hello and then wanted to shake hands, so I said hello back and started shaking hands. Then they wanted my name in English - it was what a celebrity must feel like, I think. Things got a little crazy after a while so I had to make a swift exit home, hotly pursued by some children still demanding my signature. They even followed me all the way back to Chen's house! An experience I don't think I'll have had anywhere else in China.
The week spent with Chen's family was wonderful, not least because of their hospitality and warm welcome. It was also a chance to be with a real Chinese family, and to see a part of China very different from Beijing and Shanghai. Yunnan is a wonderful place and I have many happy memories of my time there.