I’ve been way laid with some tummy issues for a couple of days during my travels in western China, watching Chinese coverage of the Olympics in my room while the rest of the group is gallivanting about. I bowed out of our group’s activities after a trip to the famous K-town livestock market where we bought a sheep. After I took a cab back to the hotel, the others in our group slaughtered it (our local friends who have experience, that is) and then everyone spent the day hanging out in the traditional countryside home of one of our group members and prepared it. Our little sheep went from bleating cuteness to lamb soup/noodles/rice pilaf all in one day. An experience in reality that I’m glad my children got to have, but that was a tough sell.
The juxtaposition of watching Olympics while my group slaughters a lamb mirrors the combination of old and new in K-town. The people here cling to beautiful traditions and old style homes in the midst of a nation that is forging ahead, straining to develop as quickly as possible. There are traditional mud-walled homes in one block and then apartment buildings in the next. There are street vendors selling goods like they have for centuries across the street from the cellphone store. In this photo I took, you can see the door of a traditional home with the rubble of the recently demolished next-door home at the doorstep.
It can feel jarring, warming my eyes to the ancient while cranes strain to build the city higher….like cutting out from the livestock market and zoning out on the Olympic air rifle competition. If I ever come back here again, I imagine more of the traditional K-town will be changed. A traditional home was razed some 50 feet our hotel room in one hour the other day. It makes me grateful for the times we get see this world before the next alteration takes place. I was fortunate to get to float down the Yangtze River the summer before it was dammed back in ‘97—perhaps this trip is something like that. Sometimes we, as humans, don’t really know what to do with the ancient. How do we both honor tradition and develop at the same time?
What have you seen that no longer exists in its traditional form? And what does it mean to you that it’s gone?