After the initial shock of witnessing a pig killed had worn off, I proceeded to eat the variety of pork dishes with gusto. The gall bladder was too bitter and the big intestines tasted better than the small while Jimmy just ate rice. When the pig squealed out loud as he was tied and carried, it was probably a signal for villagers to rush and help with the party preparation. The men cut and cleaned the organs and while the women prepped the massive wok and went on manual slicing machine mode. And when the dishes were done, more people from around the village came – an instant fiesta!
So I didn’t feel that bad that a pig had been killed in our so-called honor because the perk was shared with many but there was still that nagging suspicion in my mind that there was something fishy about the whole “free” vacation because as many know, there is no such thing as a free lunch and indeed this came with the price tag of a few thousands cased in a rather small box of tea samples that my husband had to purchase. Now, we know in China this is how business is done—that you have to “make” friends, build guanxi and business will follow. In other parts of the world, this sort of practice would make people uncomfortable, sending alarm bells ringing but respect is still due since it’s a cultural thing: different strokes for different folks. If people are happy doing biz the way they see fit and it’s consensual (doesn’t that sound kinky), that’s all that matters.
However, is it a form of chauvinism when the woman makes a mistake, the woman is made to feel stupid and dumb (i.e. negotiating a bad transport deal)? When the man makes a mistake, it’s in the name of entrepreneurial exploration. You need to spend money to make money. As a friend who has always warned me about the chauvinism that exists in this part of the globe said, a pig by any name is still a pig. It could be a wild boar.
Still, it was a lovely, picture perfect mini-holiday within an extended holiday. Joshua and Jimmy found playmates for the too-brief weekend. Except for the toddlers, the village kids come home Friday afternoon because they attend school an hour away and stay in the dormitory for five days. Even if Joshua and Jimmy wanted to stay in the village, they won’t have much playmates most of the week. In Jinghong, the city where we live, the capital of Xishuangbanna, we have been here for over a month and we still can’t find regular playmates. The kids go to school and the only opportunity for us to catch them is after class. It makes me exasperated with this homeschooling thing and wish I can put them into a regular school.
One weekend ago, we joined one of the outdoor groups of Xishuangbanna, climbing a mountain for six hours with fourteen friendly strangers. I thought other kids will join but the adults thought the climb was too difficult for children. They were amazed at how “lihai” Joshua and Jimmy were. Lihai is a Chinese word meaning extreme and it’s a useful adjective to describe great feats but it’s not that lihai really, because in other parts of the world, it would just be a regular walk where kids naturally tag along.
Our legs suffered for a few days after but it was great to connect with fellow nature-lovers no matter how grueling the trek. It seemed odd that it would hurt so much because we had climbed many mountains before for even longer periods but Jason analyzed that it’s because the same muscles were overworked continuously going one direction instead of having combinations of ups and downs.
An answered prayer already came weeks ago via a serendipitous supermarket encounter. I spotted Chris and his son, Silas along one of the aisles displaying toys. They hail from America and they eventually introduced us to a thriving community of foreigners who homeschool their kids and have an informal church gathering every Sunday. Some of them have been living in Jinghong for more than ten years. The families had 2, 3 or 4 kids. Bingo! Beat that, Bono!
It’s still not easy to arrange playdates, though. All the homeschooling parents work so combined with family teaching duties, their schedules are hectic but gratefully, I’ll take once-a-week over none.