(Sam and I with some friends & tea partners in the mountains of Yunnan)
Since Sam gave some of his perspectives of Yunnan in his last post, I wanted to follow up with my own opinion of my favorite province in China.
Sam and I were really blessed to work together for a ministry that connected us with people all over the mainland, and we got to travel to many different cities and provinces. I loved every second of those travels (public restrooms and certain "interesting" foods excluded) but the one province that truly stands apart to me is Yunnan.
Even now as I'm sitting at my computer writing this, I'm trying to think of why Yunnan is so outstanding in my mind and memories... and I think I have an answer! To me, it comes down to two things.
First is the diversity. Diversity of landscapes, diversity of cultures, diversity of people... Yunnan has it all. In the southwest you can experience tropical regions like Menglian or Xishuangbanna. The culture, people, landscape and architecture there are very Southeast Asian-esque. So much so, that If you didn't know you were in China, you could easily mistake it for Thailand or Cambodia.
(Sam at a temple in Menglian)
To the east of Yunnan's center is Kunming, the large bustling capital of Yunnan, it's similar to many other large Chinese cities. The buildings are big, the streets are crowded with cars going every which way regardless of the laws, and the people are always in a rush.
(Kunming from one of our hotels)
To the southeast you have areas like Honghe, rolling hills and mountains covered in remarkably intricate terraces growing everything from rice to tea! In this region, minority groups like the Hani are plentiful, with their beautiful clothing, rich heritage, and warm hospitality.
(Hani village ladies together at a market)
Northwest Yunnan shares borders with both Sichuan province and Tibet. If you've ever seen 7 years in Tibet with Brad Pitt, this is that kind of crazy plateau/mountain area which is incredibly beautiful and so different from other regions in Yunnan. The Nakhi people there share their ancestry with the Tibetans and are very distinct and unique.
(Tibetan Plateau landscape as seen in Yushu)
And all of this is just a small taste of the incredible diversity of the province.
The second thing that makes Yunnan stick out to me is the relationships we have there. While we made many friends across China during our time with the ministry, none are as close as our tea partners in Yunnan. Samuel and Phoebe are a husband and wife team, and they are some of the most humble and selfless people I've ever met.
(Sam and I with Samuel & Phoebe at their wedding in Samuel's home village)
Their entire lives revolve around helping Samuel's fellow minority group villagers, be it spiritual, economical, educational, or any other type of support. Samuel and Phoebe also are proud parents to two young boys who are insanely cute and sometimes tag along for visits to the remote villages.
(Samuel, Phoebe, & Jehomen purchasing handmade paper from some of their village partners)
I will always remember the older boy, whose name is Jehomen, playing with the tea ware in his father's shop. If there's one common piece of wisdom I've learned regarding 2 year-olds, it's don't give them anything fragile. Young Jehomen was sitting in his father's spot where the latter often serves tea and talks with those who visit his beautiful little shop. I was shocked by how careful and calculated Jehomen was as he pretended to serve tea with the teapots and glassware. Not only was nothing broken, I think he managed to avoid even the slightest bump of the cups and teapots. What a special boy!
(Samuel pouring tea for Sam at his teashop)
I'm so glad that Sam and I get to work in Yunnan, and I'm so glad that we're partners with Samuel and his family. They're truly a blessing to us and all we want to do is be the same to them!