Sunday, August 14, 2011

Yi ha

The Yi people are one of the Chinese minority groups that have their own language, dress, and customs. They are prevalent in Yunnan, including the major city of Lijiang, and the much more remote village of Yongshan. We heard that they had a major annual fesitval planned in late July, called the Torch Festival, with lots of drinking and feasting and fire. They also have the odd tradition of throwing paint or colored water on people, which is why you see me wearing a tye dye in these pictures.

We learned all of this from one of Steve's students, Kenny, who hails from (relatively) little Yongshan. Some readers may think, as I did, it's an odd coincidence that his name would have the same spelling and pronounciation as the South Park character who dies in most episodes. No. Kenny named himself after that character. When such a guy invites you to his home in his little village for a feast and insider torch festival, you gotta go. May fortune favor the flaneurish.

Aside from the festival, we also wanted to check out their Buddhist temple complex. They sell incense for family health, world peace, money, or love. Being a rich American, I decided to cover my bases with lots of all of them. I was most definitely disappointed on the last one since then, and see no real progress in the first three. Sneaky Buddhists.

Hanging with Kenny at a Buddhist temple in Yongshan. None of us killed him. We aren't bastards.

A pagoda at the Yongshan Buddhist temple.

Praying for world peace. With really a lot of incense. So stop fighting!

Of course, one can always make minor inroads with (at least) world peace through feasting. Kenny's brother slaughtered a lamb the day before, which they roasted and served with all kinds of other things. They brought some rice wine and bamboo wine. Ever wondered what it would taste like to drink bamboo? Pretty much like you think. I donated one bottle of Austrian schnapps. It may well have been the first time these three drinks were consumed together. Further experimentation is warranted.

Our contribution to dinner and world peace.

Of course, feasting entails singing. This is one thing that stands out about Americans: groups of drunk Americans, especially American men, are less likely to spontaneously sing than other cultures. They may sing drunk because they have drunk karaoke, or joined a drunk choir, or lead Guns N Roses, but they just don't suddenly burst into drunksong. Kenny and his family really got going. Then, they wanted us to teach them American drinking songs. We don't really have any, I said. We don't even know our own national anthem.

They pushed. Kenny forced us to sing "Right There Waiting for You" by Richard Marx, which is most definitely not a drinking song. We thought about punshing them with "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall," which would have shut them up for a while. (And taught them English counting.) Then we realized that we're very well versed in Python songs, and they would not know the difference. So, they now think that "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life", the lumberjack song, and the Australian philosopher drinking song are all mainstream American drinking songs. As well they should be.
Oh yeah. The torch festival. Didn't happen. It rained. Streets were empty. C'est la flaneur. Did I mention we had plenty to drink?

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