Alumni Blog Post: Over the Mountains and through the woods to Beigao Village we go!
I attended the Fall 2010 CET C.V. Starr-Middlebury program in Kunming, China. For Fall Break, I decided to participate in a CET-Wild China group service trip to Guizhou province. After our group visited Shiqiao village (a town famous for its stone bridge and papermaking), we began our journey to Beigao village, a Mhong village hidden deep within the mountains. There we planned to help renovate their gutter system. By bus, we drove for a few hours until we reached to the closest spot to the village. Then we hiked for about 2-2.5 hours through fields and creeks, admiring the green mountains that surrounded the narrow farmland. We ran into farmers toiling their fields, a men weaving a basket, and children guiding a water buffalo to their home. Though it was a tough hike (especially up the mountain) to Beigao Village, it was very worthwhile interacting with locals and getting to know their home (outside of Kaili, Guizhou province, China).
Upon arriving to Beigao, the children of the village followed us up the stairs and handed us flowers. The older men played their lusheng (a Mhong traditional instrument) and the women wore their handmade ethnic garbs and silver headdresses in celebration of our arrival. The day we arrived we took the day off to relax, get to know our host families, classmates, and the village. The day after, we began our laborious days of repairing their sewer system: Why were we repairing their sewage system? It was because the gutter was inefficient in separating the dirt, rocks, and sewage from the drinking water, thus contaminating their water supply. Many older people were suffering from cancer and other sicknesses due to this. How did we repair a sewer system? We used stone, sand, and cement powder to make a strong, fortified wall. We mixed the sand with cement mixture and used shovels and plows to mix it all together. As we put the cement around the wood structures, others placed rocks between the wood structure and sidewalk in order to make the wall stronger. We then waited till it dried. The picture above shows the length of wall we finished on the first day.
During our week-long stay, we fixed most of the gutter system, taught an American culture class in a local elementary school, became immersed into Mhong culture, and made new friends. The last photo is of the villagers waving goodbye to our group as we set off back to Kaili. The sun came out that day and dissipated the thick mist, showing off the beautiful green mountains and rice terraces that outline the topography of the area. It was difficult leaving our host families, but they made sure to give us a warm goodbye by treating us to very strong rice wine and sticky rice. Even today, I still look back to my experience in Guizhou and reminisce about the back-breaking work mixing the cement, the tune of the lusheng, delicious Mhong rice porridge, singing feige (“flying songs”) into the mountains, hearty dinners with families, and dancing around the bonfire with the Mhong children. This will be a trip that I will never forget. Thank you CET!
[If you would like to see all the photos I took during my service trip to Guizhou province, check out my blog at www.photoblog.com/occhina. Look at the dates: October 20th, 2010 – November 3rd, 2010. ]
*Colleen was awarded a Fulbright grant and will study in Harbin on the CET program in Fall 2012.
To view the winning entries of the 2012 CET Alumni Video/Blog contest, click here: http://cetacademicprograms.com/category/alumni-blogvideo-contest/