I feel very happy I can finally tell you about Hongqiancun, our hometown for about two days. If you read my previous blog post, you can now get to know what my favorite part of our Ningxia trip looked like. If you still haven’t, I encourage you to do so!
On our third day in Ningxia, we left for our hometown. The thing is I more or less had an idea of what to expect. This was not going to be our first time in the Chinese countryside (remember that other time at the Great Wall?). However, it fell completely different. As you may know if you read my post (you can still do it!), the majority of the population in Ningxia belongs to the hui ethnic minority or nationality (回族), that means they're Muslims. They've learnt to balance their own culture with their Chinese environment. The first person I met in Hongqiancun was meimei Mayan, 妹妹马艳 (little sister Mayan). I met Mayan right after getting off our bus. She was there looking at us with big eyes (外国人到了！The foreigners are here!). I was so happy I was placed to live in her house, not only because she was the cutest kid ever, but also because she taught me so much in barely two days. During the week, she lives with her mum and her older brother occasionally visits them as he's 18 years old and he comes and goes as he pleases. On the weekends, her older sister comes by and the house seems to be happier. Their dad works at Yinchuan, capital of Ningxia province. However, they seem to have a pretty close relationship, and nowadays thanks to WeChat they talk to each other everyday.
Mayan helped us understand her mother (it was hard to get their Chinese), and she stuck to us throughout our whole trip. Picking up corn and visiting the sheep up in the mountains was way more fun thanks to her. After a very tasty lunch, we helped the villagers to pick up corn from the fields. It was a very interesting experience and it surely made us hungry for dinner. While our host mum was preparing dinner, we played basket with Mayan and some other kids in their courtyard. The day had been long and intense, so we went to sleep pretty early. On the following day, the weather had completely changed. It was very cold and that day we had to visit our host families’ previous houses up in the mountains. The ride on our bus was quite bumpy and you could see nothing around but sand mountains and some other trees. When we got up there, they showed us the caves they used to live in only 5 years ago. I still can’t believe how the managed to build their new houses, which are incredibly nicer. Some of the caves were bigger than others, but in general it was a single room carved into the mountain, and that’s all. No electricity or water supplies, no modern technology; nothing but sand around.
In some of them we could still find personal belongings, such as closets, clothes, shoes, little wooden boxes, broken mirrors… Those kinds of things that are always forgotten left behind in between the debris.
We also visited their old school and a mosque next to it. The weather was rather cold as I said, as well as cloudy. After seeing the caves where they used to live I was kind of sad, but at the same time happy that they were now living in a much better place, thanks to their hard work and savings.
After another very tasty lunch (I missed their homemade, natural food), we visited the Hongqiancun’s main mosque and its imam talked about Islam in China. He also told us stories about his family, and showed us a Republic of China passport that I found amazing.
But, as I said, still my favorite part was being able to get to know the hui people and some of their customs, as well as feeling part of the community for a brief period of time. I can say they're hospitality embodied. I admire the rural women, as I'm one myself, though from a very different background and of course, with much more less limitations. That’s why I especially hope Mayan becomes a great woman. I hope that she'll go to university, that she'll help her parents have a better life. I cannot write anything but thankful words for this family and be grateful for their kindness. I truly felt at home.
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Alejandra Sola Ávila
<div>21, from Southern Spain. Translation and Interpreting student in University of Granada.</div>
<div>Now IES Abroad student. Currently living in Beijing and studying in Bei Wai University. </div>
<div>Passionate about books, poetry, cinema, good music and travelling. I believe I was born to travel the world while helping others.</div>
<div>'Not all who wander are lost'.</div>