Saturday, January 03, 2009

Muslim Friends at the Mountain Top

Our friends took us up another mountain to visit their Muslim friends. In the beginning, the road twisted and turned; but it was paved, and we were able to gawk at the beautiful stepped ladder fields, and the valley below. Then the paving ended, and the van started bucking like a bronco over the deep gullies in the muddy road. We held on to our seats, with our backsides literally jumping off the seats, and hardly had any time to take photographs.

The Muslim family welcomed us warmly, and sat us on their coal-fired kang-bed. The lady of the house started cooking up a storm on the coal-fired stove in the middle of the room, and brought a continuous stream of food to the short-legged table set in the middle of the kang.

The stir-fried mutton with vegetables was my favourite. I felt bad eating on their bed; but that was the custom. Apparently, if you were to be invited to stay the night, you will share the kang with the family at night. Imagine!

An overly eager yellow tabby kitten wanted to play rough. It actually bit and scratched my hand in the process. Later, it turned its attention to the food on the table. We were constantly on alert - trying to keep it away from the food, and avoiding its sharp claws at the same time.

Having been repeatedly frustrated, it surprisingly settled down and curled up in my friend’s lap! We all found it rather amusing.

Our Muslim friends’ son seemed to have some medical issues that bothered them greatly. We discussed a number of possible actions, including taking him down to the hospital in the city to be checked out, and possibly an operation. We didn’t think much of it at the time. However, the mother was apparently quite overwhelmed by the attention. When we retreated, she held on to a girl in our group and cried for quite some time.

Life in their village is hard enough even for the healthy. Their one primary school consists of a row of bungalows, and not much else. The villages down the mountain has been wired for broadband network. But the network has not yet reached the mountain top village, and there is no assurance that it ever will. When we handed out simple sweets, the kids jumped and fought over them. Hence it must be extremely hard when your child is sick, and we also heard that he got picked on by the other kids because he was different. Later, we made a point to play with the kid outside of the house, and had photographs taken with him. He seemed quite happy then.

It is difficult not to feel for these people. We are all Chinese. Why are our lives so different?

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