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Published: August 5th 2007
Our first afternoon in Kaili included a trip to the bird and flower market; it was a fascinating regional market with baskets of spices; cages of birds, exotic animals and reptiles; interesting plants; and piles of local fruits and vegetables. Unfortunately, we were caught in a torrential downpour and were not able to enjoy the market scene. The rain complicated the afternoon trip to one of the nearby minority villages, so we went to a regional museum that had minority dress and cultural artifacts on display. The most interesting parts of the museum, however, were the women artisans who were working on traditional arts and crafts. The women were weavers, silversmiths, and batik artists. I quickly became the group "batik freak." Our trips out of Kaili were delayed because of landslides, road washouts, and two meters of water on the roads.
On way to the Miao villages, we saw a large crowd of people gathered under a highway overpass. Our driver agreed to stop and we saw a water buffalo and cattle auction. I attracted the attention of an older Miao woman in the group, and as chance would have it, I had a small souvenir book about Texas in my
bag. (We were going to visit a Miao home later in the day, and I had the book as a gift.) Anyway, I showed the woman pictures of Texas longhorns and a cattle drive. The woman marveled over the horns on the longhorn and declared the longhorn's horns would make many fine drinking horns. I gave her the book and she happily became the center of attention by the time we left.
During our time in the Miao country, we visited both the Long-skirt and the Short-skirt Miao. They were warm and fascinating people. Their costumes were rich with silver and hand embroidery and embellishment. I know their customs and tradtional dances and costumes have been co-opted by the government for tourism, but I felt so lucky to see some of their dances and costumes. The people were welcoming and open.
Our last day in the villages we spent in a traditional, non-tourist place and enjoyed a picnic on a rocky shoal, skipped rocks, watched fishermen on the river, helped a woman gather rocks for building a house, and played with the village childred. We also tried to help a village woman whose husband had been injured in an accident
with picnic food and money. As we left, the children gathered on the balcony of a home and shouted, "Bye, bye!"--their voices echoing across the rice fields until we had hiked out of sight. M
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