By Claire Hou
Xiaohusai is located in the deep, mountainous terrains of Yunnan Province, which is known for its rich cultural and ethnic diversity, as well as its famous pu’erh tea.
The nearest city to Xiaohusai is called Lincang, the 10th most populated city in Yunnan. About a tumultuous 2-hour car ride away, Lincang stands at the foot of the mountain Xiaohusai is located on.
Lincang is known for being humid, especially during the summer. 70% of the annual rainfall occurs during the months of June through September, so every visit to Xiaohusai at the end of the school year is a wet one. The streets are always lined with shop after shop selling raincoats and waterproof boots by the time we arrive.
It is a very charming city, from what we have seen of it. We usually spend the car-rides from the airport thoroughly conked out in the backseat, only waking up when it is time to have dinner.
Dinner, every year without fail, is at the same family-owned restaurant, at the same brick crosswalk. I have yet to see any sort of title or identifier for it, but it isn’t difficult to recognize. The kitchen is visible from where we sit down in the dining area, the sound and smell of oil sizzling in the wok strong. On the wall hangs a large styrofoam infographic about how to distinguish poisonous mushrooms from edible ones, as the nearby mountains are filled with mushrooms that can be picked and sold for money.
The wi-fi password isn’t hard to guess either. It is probably identical within a twenty-mile radius: eight eights. The traditional Chinese symbol for good fortune and great wealth.
Nearby, there are bustling markets filled with people selling fruits, vegetables, everyday necessities, and the occasional tourist good. Pointed straw hats stacked high next to a pile of oranges, plastic mats on the ground underneath a mountain of longans. The streets are dirty with rainwater, but the produce is pristine and locals bicker good-naturedly over the stands.
Many of the children we are sponsoring attend school in Lincang. They live at school during the week, and their parents pick them up by motorcycle on Friday night to go back to Xiaohusai for the weekend. It is a bit of a hassle, but the best they can do for now.
Going to Lincang from Xiaohusai is a fairly long and tedious journey, so most villagers don’t venture down that often. Still, it is there, and plays a great part in these families’ lives.