Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Fugong Market Highlights/Christmas greetings

First off, merry Christmas to those who celebrate it. My very Jewish family spent today in Chinatown at dim sum (delicious, as always) and then at a movie. Even though most everyone in Boston's Chinatown speaks Cantonese, it's still a little bit like being back in Kunming, and I have to admit that I do miss it (especially since Xiong Li Mei called me yesterday and I realized how much my Chinese has deteriorated.)

In any case, it's clear that my blog dropped off dramatically after I got home, but I remain set on finishing it. I've just also accepted the fact that it won't be quite as in-depth as the blog I kept up until this point. I have lots of beautiful pictures to share with all of you, and I'll let those do most of the talking, a sort of narrated slide show. So here I present to you, in the first installment: the Fugong marketplace.

China's rural economy is based largely on markets. The largest urban center in a given area (and in really rural places it's not always particularly urban, just urban by comparison) hosts a market every week or so (in Fugong's case ever 5 days, with the 10 days mark being the larger market.) People from all over Nujiang came to buy and sell produce, Lisu jewelry and traditional paraphenalia, and miscellaneous interesting stuff (salt crystals as big as my head, walking sticks, cross bows). Even on the days I was feeling sickest I went to the market to watch the people and take pictures. Lots of pictures.

You said you wanted half a pig? Well, here it is.

Selling traditional crossbows

Young ladies in Lisu garb from Tengchong (an area outside of Nujiang)

Two old ladies gossip on the street corner

Bickering over the price of greens

Traditional woven Lisu baskets

Bamboo pipes (and a charming Lisu nainai smoking one)

Faces at the market

(This might be my favorite picture of all the ones I took in Nujiang)

On the last day I stayed in Fugong, I went to the market and bought a traditional Lisu headdress that I had been eying for the last few market days. There was an old Lisu lady selling it, and she didn't speak any Mandarin so whenever I asked after it I had to ask through a younger woman who wore dirty pink sneakers and bad teeth, and who I assume was her granddaughter. She kept naming outlandish prices for the headdress, and I would try to bargain but she wouldn't budge. It was clear that the piece was well-made and valuable: it had real, hand-cut bone circles along the forehead and half of the beads were clearly antique. I finally decided that this would be my treat to myself from China, but I wasn't willing to pay the Y500 (about $75) she was quoting me. As I stood in the drizzle, I attracted attention from around the market (as I was the only white person there.) People came over to try and help mediate, and they all agreed that the nainai was giving me a raw deal. "Give her a break!" they yelled in a mix of Lisu and Mandarin, but after conceding Y150 she would not yield. I ultimately bought the headdress for Y350 (about $50), with the local price being Y180-200. But I know that that nainai probably ate for months off that money, and the extra $20 was very little to me. Plus, of course, it makes a good story. Later that day I also bought a traditional Lisu skirt (as seen above) for unmarried women-- light blue print with a white stripe down the middle-- and Foster dad brought me a handmade button-down unisex shirt as a going away present. I left Fugong that day well-outfitted and slightly melancholy.

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