04-18-2008 16:30

By Yin Chen

Whether you travel to get away from urban chaos, to see a whole new world, or simply because you crave that unfamiliar scent in the air, there’s the perfect cure for your migratory itch. “Variety of its landscape, and diversity of its people, go to the minority regions!”

To film the ethnic minority series, I spent a good portion of last year in small minority villages scattered around China. In some of these communities, people have little or virtually no contact with the outside word. Here, cabs, office cubicles, youtube, and frappaccinos are pure gibberish. Instead, what does matter are your two feet, the endless rows of rice paddies, and enough yak butter tea to fill a pool. Unimagineable, but yes. In a tiny village in Guizhou, the crew and I were treated like celebrities on red carpet, as outsiders were a rare commodity. Locals gathered around us, the village elders held a meeting to plan our stay, women gossiped about our strange jeans and mannerisms, and boys and girls giggled shyly as we passed by.

At night, I remember walking out of our homestay at 9pm looking for an outhouse and stumbling upon something that had never occurred to me before. It was absolutely pitch black. For us citydrellers or suburbanites, nighttime is never really night, since the lights never ALL go out. We have street lamps, the 24 hour convenience store sign, if not the glow from the monitor of the teenage kids’ computer across the street. In Huanggang, if it were not for the weak 5 second light on my cell, I would have probably bumped into a tree or fell in a ditch. When the sun goes down there, all that shines are the brightness of the moon and stars. I looked up for a second and realized just how far I was from home. Then, I looked down and cleaned the cow dung off my shoe.

On the first night of our arrival, the Dong prepared a grand village feast. However, the food was not ur typical fare. Boiled pickled meat, salted duck eggs, and soupy vegetables. With glutinous rice in hand, locals ate and drank heartily. I don’t consider myself to be too picky an eater, so I tested a few things here and there. But honestly, let’s just say I didn’t need anymore than a sample. I don’t think our crew members adjusted to local taste either. After that first meal, the cameraman and assistant would somehow always mysteriously disappear around dinner. I spotted them once secretly slurping their bowls of instant noodles in the van.


Editor:Liu Fang