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Full Circle

Day 71: Guiyang

Michael Palin - Full CircleShimeng is another Miao village on the edge of plateau surrounded by a patchwork of green and gold rice terraces. It can only be reached from a dirt road by walking for half an hour along an intricate system of narrow mud causeways. On either side the wet earth is being turned with a wooden plough consisting of a single curved shaft with a steering handle at one end and a blade at the other, yoked to the shoulders of a water buffalo. It's a slow process, only as fast as the beast itself, which plods on, great eyes gazing forward, occasionally glancing wearily to the side. I watch a very old man communicate with his animal by a series of short, sharp hisses interspersed with loud grunts. It seems to work.

The villagers rush out to see us, many of them holding half-empty lunch bowls, jaws slack with disbelief. The women laugh, the men frown. One family allow us in to their house. They are sitting around a table on a mud-baked floor. Beside them is a brick hearth in which charcoal smoulders. Bowls of pork, chillies and sunflower seeds are on the table. In the room off to the right is bedding and a strip light; in the room off to the left there is a water buffalo.

We are the first people from the West they have ever seen. I ask Priscilla what strikes them most about us. She laughs with embarrassment as she translates.

'How do you say... big noses?'

As we look around the village I notice that some progress has reached Shimeng. There has been electricity here for the last nine years. There are a few lights, a radio. Not much else, but it must only be a matter of time before television comes and then a road and cars and motor bikes and the wider world.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 71
  • Country/sea: China
  • Place: Shimeng
  • Book page no: 103

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