Asia | China | Sichuan Province | Leshan – Plums
I took the early bus to Dayuanzi buried in baskets of plums. The farmers were all going to Suba, a town between Minjian and Dayuanzi, for market day. Apparently they didn’t mind competing with one another selling the same commodity, because everyone on the bus was selling plums and plums only. The bus got stuck in Suba for quite a while with all the loading and unloading, and I got a few nice pictures of the Yis in their colorfully embroidered black velvet jackets, wide skirts, intricate silver jewlry, and huge headdresses. A man squating on ground held two roosters in his hands as if they were hand-warmers. Both of them had their feet tied up in straws and looked as docile as two house pets, even when a chubby woman came along and lifed them up-side-down to check which one would be better for braising in soy sauce.
I was wondering how the locals could afford such expensive clothing and jewlry, and the bus driver told me that they have become more affluent than the people in Minjian over the past decade from the phosphorus mines and timber in the mountains. Nevertheless, the road was left unpaved above the deep gorge. I started talking to a girl sitting in front of me. Looking quite trendy and educated, she could have passed for a Shanghai girl if it weren’t for the local dialect. Born Yi and growing up Chinese, she’s a teacher in the middle school in Dayuanzi.
While she taught her class, I wandered up and down the only street in town, dotted with some seamstress shops selling Yi clothing and restaurants with steamed buns sitting on a stove outside. The locals looked apathetic as I walked by, but were friendly when I tried to make conversation. Most of them spoke only Yi, and even body language was futile this time.
Lulu, the local teacher, met up with me after class was over and told me that the local schools are pretty well off because of their small sizes. Most of the students end up going to high school in Minjian, and almost no one drops out thanks to the government enforced nine-year education plan. Nevertheless, Dayuanzi was too boring for younger people like her, she told me, and she left for her family in Minjian whenever she could, even if it meant a two-hour commute in the morning. I thought of the school I saw in Jiasha and was puzzled why even with the high drop-out rates and poverty in the rural areas, the villages in Yunnan were a lot cleaner and the people seemed more educated from their mannerism.