by Rick Green
When it comes to visiting China, most people I have spoken to have only visited Beijing, the Great Wall, Xi'an, and Shanghai. Some may have cruised the Yangtze, visited the water cities of Hangzhou or Suzhou, seen the karst landscape of Guilin, or included Hong Kong because it's a nearby world city. The rest of the third largest country in the world, however, is a blank, unless some disaster brings the spotlight of international media upon an otherwise dark corner. This is a shame because China is a diverse, multi-cultural country, yet North Americans' view of it is surprisingly uniform in its limited perspective.
by Rick Green
As we entered Zenchong village, a chorus of plinking could be heard emanating from a number of houses. Even though there appeared to be no conductor, the sounds gravitated to a natural rhythm. Occasionally they would fall out of tempo, but within a short time, the cadence would be regained and harmony restored.
It was a hot, sunny day, the kind where you feel every pore in your body has opened to breathe. The village women had retreated to the shade of their homes to find some relief from the afternoon heat. Relaxing in a hammock with a cool drink, however, would be unheard of for a Dong woman. There is always work to do. In this case, it was an opportunity to labour on finishing the distinctive cloth they produce for their traditional clothing.
by Rick Green
Chinese food is as diverse as its geography and people. A common saying describes it as "East is sweet, South is salty, West is sour, North is spicy" (dōng tián, nán xián, xī suān, bĕi là). Southern cuisine is rice based, while the north favours wheat. Then there are the 56 officially-recognized minority groups with their own traditions. So if you are expecting the Lemon Chicken / Sweet & Sour Pork variety of Chinese food, what you actually find may be quite different.
To really get the flavour of a place, you need to go to China's small towns and villages where little of what is consumed is imported. Rather, the food represents what is freshly available in the surrounding area at that time of year, supplemented by ingredients whose life has been extended by drying, pickling, or salting. With its longer growing season, the south offers more local eating options.
I met Yanhua one December day in 2009 when visiting the Longsheng Rice Terraces in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. Chinese security had closed the only road for a visiting delegation from Africa. Yanhua asked me if I wanted to follow her down a trail to Huang Luo, her village, where we could have tea at her family's hotel. I gladly accepted her invitation and spent a pleasant afternoon there before continuing on to Guilin.