Chinese New Year
I knew it was going to be an adventure when the charter bus stopped on the side of the freeway to let the 4 of us off the bus. My partner and I, along with our friend and his brother, were left standing helpless on the shoulder with our luggage. Apparently, this was the plan.
We walked a ¼ mile down the off-ramp, past the toll booth, where the road turned to dirt paved with rocks. We were soon greeted by what appeared to be a motorcycle gang. Our fears were soon allayed, however, as it turned out to be our friend’s father and 4 of his uncles. We strapped down our bags to one bike, and as I hopped on behind Eric’s dad, I thought to myself, “I can’t believe this is happening to me.”
After an hour of hanging on for dear life, and trying to take videos with my free hand, I watched the road transform from barely paved to dirt and mud. After countless switchbacks, and being thrown a couple inches in the air from pothole after pothole, we reached their home, just shy of the summit of the mountain. We were there to visit over the Chinese new year, often referred to as “spring festival” here.
Never in my life have I been in a place like that, and maybe never again. Not only were we far removed from civilization, but we were probably 50 miles from anyone of our skin color. We were probably only an hour or 2 from Burma (Myanmar), if there was a perfectly straight road across the mountains. Most of the people were Buddhist at least culturally, and also very sincerely clung to ancestor worship. The people there spoke a dialect somewhat different from the standard Mandarin that we have been learning, and often bartered for goods rather than using money. They were remarkably self-sufficient, raising their own animals, planting crops, and living off the land. My friend’s family was slightly better off than most, meaning they had some electricity and satellite TV, and that his father had built a bathroom with a western toilet and shower. We lucked out on the bathroom…
It was quite slow up on the mountain, and we only went down once during the 5 days we were there, making a trip to a remote Buddhist temple with them. It was awkward at times, and even boring, on top of that mountain, despite the amazing views and adventurous environment. The hardest part, however, was seeing that our friend still had a long ways to grow. He hasn’t told his family yet that he’s become a Christian, and it seems to me that he is nervous about upsetting the way things have always been. He is a bit torn between pleasing those closest to him, and giving himself to this. It’s understandable, but I wish he was more sold out. He told me he wants to talk to them before he comes back to the city for school.