Life is slow in Yunnan. People walk with no rush; the fields can wait. The clouds change form in slow motion; the lush mountains are great company. Even the birds chirp melodically and without strain; it’s just the way it is. In a place like that, a bicycle fits so well for exploring at the speed of the land. I came upon a child and his grandfather walking with their shadows along the rice fields and enjoying the caressing rays of the gentle sun. I got off my bicycle and began photographing them after getting their clear unspoken agreement. Then I saw alarm in their eyes as they gestured towards me; I turned around and watched my bicycle tumble with my second camera and my bag into the rice field. This man with grace, ease and a smile, put his grandson down, helped me lift my now damaged mode of transportation, with its dislocated wheel. He gestured to me and we communicated with my limited Mandarin as he helped carry my bicycle back the other way towards his home, his little grandson following us shyly. The man asked me to wait as he brought out his toolbox and slowly and methodically fixed the wheel and tested it. He smiled and his granddaughter joined them as they posed for a last photograph before I took off feeling lighter, happier, and grateful for the good people who give without counting the cost, who help because it is human to do so.
On the way to Dayangjie, the central home of the Yiche people, a branch of the Hani ethnic minority that settled in Yunnan about 1000 years ago, we met this child and grandparent. The Yiche people wear conical hats in black and in white and are known to have some of the stranger customs among the Hani people. The ‘lihhahha’ or marriages in their language of the Yiche people are arranged by their parents when they are very young, when the bride-price is paid. After the marriage the husband and wife don’t live together, but with their own parents. The wife, however, must visit her husband every twelve days until giving birth. During this period of lihhahha the wife has the freedom to have sexual intercourse with any man she likes. This custom proves that there is so much more to learn about the people of the world and the way their lives are arranged and why. The more I see of this world, the less room I have for pre-judgment and the wider my mind must be opened.