New House

A newly renovated house in a traditional Naxi village in Shigu, Yunnan, China

After another few months of back breaking work, we’ve just finished the first stage of renovating our second courtyard. The house will mostly be used by ourselves and our friends, but it also has a big garden with some mature walnut trees where we can put up slacklines and make a badminton and volleyball court. The garden will be free for everyone to enjoy. Having lived in a room right above the dorms, with no windows, and no insulation for nearly two years, it’ll be nice to have our own space. A big thank you all the volunteers who helped us this year. It wouldn’t have been possible without you.

Our first ever Summer Camp

It’s rainy time and this year has been particularly wet. The river is raging, and the valley is green and lush. We’ve been joined by a few families from Lijiang and Kunming for our first summer camp. It was quite an action packed few days with hiking, climbing, fishing, mushroom hunting, slacklining, juggling, basket making, and house building with bamboo and mud.

Summer’s here kids

Summer’s here kids! We’ve had a busy few months trying to finish a few things on the house. The final job was making the railings and steps for the barn rooms. We’ve now got all of our licences, and we’re very happy to announce that we’re finally officially open.

Poor Wancai

About a week ago Wancai staggered through the door, leaving a trail of blood behind her. This trail of blood led all the way down to the river bank where the villagers dump their rubbish. In places like this, they’re aren’t any refuse facilities and it’s so far from the town that they don’t even consider it worthwhile to collect recyclables. It looked like Wancai had stood on a broken bottle. She’d gashed the back of her leg really badly cutting a blood vessel and with the bone clearly visible. The blood was literally squirting out and she was close to being unconscious. Ling squeezed her leg to stop the blood while I dashed around the house looking for some special chinese medicine. Originally developed for treating wounds on the battle field, this plant based powder has blood coagulating properties. I’d never really believed it before, but it seemed to work. We packed the wound with this magic powder and bandaged it up, with a piece of cloth tied just above her knee as a tourniquet. After a few hours, we removed the tourniquet and for the next two days stopped her from pulling off the bandage. After that, we just left her to treat herself and she’s been licking the wound ever since to keep it clean. She’s mastered the three legged walk and is tentatively trying her injured leg.

Bringing in the tobacco

For most of the people here, tobacco is the main source of income. The average family gets around $2000 for the harvest which, when taking into consideration the fact that they own their own homes and produce a lot of their own food, makes them wealthier than most Chinese. It also ensures that the villagers do all they can to get as big a harvest as possible. If tobacco isn’t toxic enough already, the regular cocktail of pesticides will guarantee an early grave for the unfortunate addict.

It’s raining

Finally the rains have come, and all the farmers can breathe a sigh of relief. They all tell me it’s been the driest year in living memory. Hard to know if that’s actually the case but it’s certainly been dry. Since my coming here there have probably only been half a dozen rainy days. With the rain comes the realisation that our roof has a few holes. For now we’re just doing the best we can with plastic sheets and buckets, a tactic which seems to be quite successful. All of the roof rafters are exposed and get a good amount of air flow, so they dry quickly after the rain and are unlikely to rot in a hurry. Still, it’d be nice if the roof did what it was supposed to do. I’m making a note of all the leeks and then after the rains have gone I’ll try and make some more permanent repairs.

Swallow, swallow, little swallow

On the side of the house there’s a swallow nest and for the past few weeks mum and dad swallow have been busy feeding up the chicks. They seem completely oblivious to my poking a camera in the nest to get this photo. One morning I came down from our room and noticed the tweeting had stopped and they’d all flown. It’s lucky they had, as just a few days later the nest came crashing down. I don’t know if they’ll build a new nest next year, but I hope they come back. It was nice having a swallow nest on the side of the house.