Week 6 – 山慕

Faithful muddy friend.

Faithful muddy friend.

It’s earth hour in Australia, and in Ji Xiang the power has been out from dawn till dusk for 4 days.  We’re so pious we’re observing earth hour for 12 hours a day, (and then siting up all night by a blazing fire, catching up.) You’d think that being acoustic musicians this wouldn’t cause too much drama, but for some reason it has completely stumped my ability to work. Instead of recording and mixing visual scores, I’ve been letting the little pig out for freedom runs, going for long bike rides, hiking to temples and eating a lot.

It’s quiet in the village, no construction, no hum of fridges in the shops, and much less music floating over the canola-tops as people work in the fields. I would not have expected a lack of electricity to make such a difference in a farming village. Maybe that was naive. I’m learning that my city life has led to much naivety.

It’s extra annoying for the householders that the power is out because it’s a Naxi holiday, and a 4 day weekend, celebrating the birth of Sanduo. He is considered to be the soul of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and protector of the Naxi people. Somehow this festival is also conflated with “mens day” which seems to be celebrated with piles of meat stew and much firewater and cigarettes for the adults, and games of soccer for the boys. (our 16yo slunk into the kitchen to ask his grandmother for a recipe and some ingredients before running off to his own mens day celebration) We popped in at the end of mens day dinner, just in time to see the lights come back on and everyone disappear to go plug things in, fill up tanks, circular saw some things, check the answering machine and feed the pigs.

I wonder what Sanduo would have thought of the mass exodus to the new god of hydro-electric power?

So: not much to report. No music to play for you, just a nagging suspicion that I’m slightly addicted to ‘things’ for my creative process. I’ve been writing, and playing bass, and taking photos, but by the end of these busy days I have no desire to spend time in front of a glowing screen editing and processing.

It’s been a strange week, with no choice but to acknowledge my uncomfortable reliance on email and the wealth of the internet, while also revelling in the freedom and resisting online work at all costs. It’s deflating yet delicious to wonder about your email inbox all day, and then discover no new messages come 8pm.

I’m tempted to draw an analogy between this experience and the pushmepullyou lure of the modern world on this quiet little village, but i think it’s a bridge too far. I’m sure it’d be a pretty analogy though, if I chose to draw it. It’s very pretty here.

Dawn recording sessions

Naima walking back from a dawn recording session, as YuLong mountain lights up with the sky.

The other uncomfortable truth I’ve faced this week is that I’m much more precious about instruments than I expected. After many false starts I purchased a student bass in Kunming, and it’s dirty and grungy and only plays loudly and it’s bright and clangy and I don’t want to play it. I am playing it, because Naima’s been writing me great music to play, and there’s so much inspiration here to draw from, but gosh it’s hard work. Talking about realising ones own privilege… However: a poor carpenter blames their tools, etc etc.

So I’m struggling on, and telling myself that playing the bass in will help it. The more I play it, the better it will sound. The more I play it, the better it will sound. The more I play it, the better it will sound. The more I play it, the better it will sound. The more I play it, the better it will sound. The more I play it, the better it will sound. The more I play it, the better it will sound. The more I play it, the better it will sound. The more I play it, the better it will sound. The more I play it, the better it will sound. The more I play it, the better it will sound. The more I play it, the better it will sound.

Or I could just play table tennis.

Or I could just play table tennis.

I attached a gopro to my helmet on our bike ride around the lake, and here’s a gallery of photos of a family ride around Lashihai. The winding road from rural paradise to construction and trucks, the road lined by endless ponies. So many ponies.

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Every week there’s a village market in the next village over. We walk down with Xue Mei down there, and then wander around being overwhelmed by the dead pigs and fresh noodles and Naxi music blaring from multiple sources, and so many women in Naxi dress that I keep thinking I see our Anai, but of course it never is. Or is it?

Last week, when we were all sitting around the breakfast fire together. Xue Mei and Na Ma went off first, Kira and I followed about 15 minutes later, and we left Anai sitting at the fire eating her egg and drinking tea. We asked if she wanted to come and she waved us off with a Bu yao, Bu Yao!

At the market, I thought I saw her, but figured it was just an apparition in the crowd of similarly dressed women of a similar age. Then I caught her eye and she looked sheepish… because she was there secretly, buying sweets for her private stash! She implored us to not tell the others, and we all agreed and walked home together, kept satisfied by constant handfuls of sunflower seeds being produced from Anai’s apron pockets.

Naxi people do festivals well, since we’ve been here there’s been Women’s day (which we were not invited to!) Men’s day, (which we were invited to) Sanduo festival, New years, and tomb sweeping day is coming up. My favourite so far, however, has been the old peoples festival. 3 days of lunch and dinner in the community hall, with all the grandparents of the village hanging out, playing games and eating food.

There's no gambling here!

There’s no gambling here!

On the first day, Anai came in to our courtyard to show off her outfit, she was all dressed up with roses on her shoes and sparkles in her jacket. He Ye Ye was wearing a sweater vest and button down shirt and looked very dapper! On the last day, I asked if I could go along and take some photos, and I’m so glad I did. Seeing the respect and reverence for the elderly of the village really put my own experience into sharp relief.

Grandpa and Grandchild.

Grandpa and Grandchild.

I’ll put more photos in next weeks post. This one is getting quite long!

I’ve been thinking a lot about place, belonging, translation, culture and the translation of those things between cultures. Not even the big things, just the little things like how our cheery chorus of “Bless you!” after anyone sneezes (including the cat) gets smiles of amusement from our hosts; how saying no to an offered drink can make someone lose face, and how this house has been in this family for 8 generations.

So I’ll write about all of that next week, and how it’s affecting my collaborative work processes.

Here’s some photos of when Naima let little pig out for a run. She’s doomed for the table fairly soon, so we’re trying to make her life as good as we can! She gets so excited, and runs at full pelt down the fields, grunting with pleasure at every stretched out step. Naima has a great video of her ‘dancing’ but these give you some idea of how adorable she is.

I want a pet pig.



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