...but it's closer than I've been yet. Tomorrow is National Day here in China. On October 1st, 1949, Mao and his troops rolled into Beijing, signalling their victory over the Nationalist forces under Chiang Kai-Shek and completing their long, long journey to power. My students still refer to this as the "Liberation," although I am not sure they have any idea what they were liberated from.
This is the holiday when everyone travels more than any other. I have been discouraged from taking a trip during the national holiday because all the destinations will be swamped with tourists. Yunnan province has become an increasingly popular destination as the Chinese have become more affluent and can do things like become tourists. The interest in China's minority groups has always been pretty high, but never higher than it is now, and eco-tourism is booming here. People want to go see the beautiful countryside, China's natural wonders, and Yunnan province is abundant in its fertility! And its minorities: half of China's 56 officially recognized minority groups live in Yunnan province!
The upside of this trend is twofold: first, there are strong efforts being made to preserve minority culture and language. This is not entirely new. Mao was much better about the minority peoples in China than Stalin was in Russia (or we were in America!). At the very least, Mao did not try to eliminate them as Stalin did, and I believe that Mao did actually implement assistance programs of some sort. Although the minorities were seen as backwards, tribal people that were somewhat down on the evolutionary scale from the 'Han' Chinese, they were also viewed as a valuable part of Chinese culture.
The second benefit of increased tourism is there has been an upswing in environmental protection as people begin to see the wilderness not just as a wasteland or an economic producer just for its ability to provide consumable resources, but as a sustainable economic producer of tourist dollars. As such, I think China now has something resembling national parks from which industry is banned. I'm not sure, though, but I think I heard this from someone.
When I say tourism and tourists, I am speaking of internal tourists, not foreign tourists. The first time I heard that, my intial reaction was 'that's weird, they live in China, why would they be tourists?' Of course I immediately realized that this was a silly question, since it's obvious Americans make up the largest percentage of American tourists. Ever been to Mt. Rushmore? Yeesh... :-) That was just one of those moments when you think about foreign countries as 'foreign,' like for some reason the same rules don't apply.
So, the biggest destinations around here are Lijiang and Dali. Lijiang is an ancient city (what isn't) that has retained its ancient-ness. I guess there was a big earthquake some years ago and all the modern buildings fell down, and all the old-fashioned buildings survived. So they rebuilt the town using the traditional building style, and so Lijiang is this quaint old Chinese town swamped with tourists. Sort of makes me think of Port Townsend. Anyway, it is also in a center of the Naxi minority area, and the Naxi are very popular. Sometimes you get extra lucky and your tour bus will pull over so you can see the Naxi pretending to be quaint minorities and they will dress up and dance for you, and you can give them money and buy souvenirs before your bus pulls out. If you stay with a tour bus you will see Naxi whose job is to go be Naxi for tourists. However, you can go to real Naxi villages and see real Naxi dressed up and dancing, but for themselves, not for tourists. Of course, I am always making mental comparisons with Native American culture, but you can do that on your own. I will say that the native cultures are in waaaaay better shape here than in the U.S.!
Dali is another destination, but I don't know much about it. I think it is in the Bai minority region, but I can't tell you much. You're online, go look it up. Do I have to do everything?
On another note, I just took a side job teaching another English class at another school. Dude, they're so desperate at this point they're paying me more than twice what my real job pays (per hour). So I will teach a three-hour Oral English class on Thursday afternoons for 100 RMB per hour. Those three hours per week will increase my income 50%. I was really tempted to teach two classes, and I may end up doing that once I see how it goes. But, y'know, the weird thing is, I don't know what the heck I'd spend the money on! I mean, I'm well above the subsistence level already, all the rest is just gravy for luxuries -- some of which would be great (a printer would be nice to have, for example). But on the other side of that equation, no matter how much I make in Chinese money it's not exactly going to engorge my bank account in U.S., so it's almost like "what's the point?" But geez, Ithink an extra three hours a week is doable. And if I do end up doing a lot of travel, it will be a big help for transportation costs.
Well, that's enough for today! I'm officially on vacation until next Tuesday, the 8th! See y'all later!