On the fourth day, four young guests arrived and their presence altered the mood of the guesthouse. We had not encountered any foreigners on our trip so far and hearing them speaking in English sounded out of place yet refreshing at the same time.
We chatted with them at breakfast the next morning and learned that they are all from New York. We bumped into them again when we were in the nearby Yidoshu village (依多樹村). We ended up joining them and Greg, the owner of the guesthouse to see the clouds and terraces.
Even though we had watched the beautiful clouds for the past few days, I was still mesmerized by the way they ebbed and flowed – could feel serenity within me as the clouds approaching and I slowly immersed in and becoming part of it. Growing up in a city, most of us are so used to the mundane daily life and numb to what really happens around us. But here, I felt as if my senses had finally awoken and became sensitive to the continuous changing of the elements and constantly in awe of the different colours and shapes of things as each minute went by.
As we precariously walked along the edge of the terraces and taking in the gorgeous view, we also got to know more about these lovely New Yorkers, Maggie, Melissa, Gordon and Igor. They truly exemplify the diversity of New York as they all come from different cultural backgrounds.
In the next three days, we hiked, roamed around various villages and saw sunsets together. We talked about our different cultures, life experiences and hopes and dreams and I was touched by their youthful exuberance, curiosity and warm friendship among them.
Of all the things we did, nothing surpassed our experience of the market day (趕集) in NiuJiaozhai (牛角寨). Our car was stuck in a small junction inside the marketplace for over 20 minutes and we were astonished by how the local drivers from both opposite directions magically inched their way out of the impossible tight spot to our left and right side. While we were holding our breath and thinking our car would be scratched or smashed into any second, all the drivers (including ours) were so calm and the locals just strolled past as if nothing was going on.
We were told that the local barbecue was a must do. So we found our way into the centre of the market and saw the locals squatting and eating around the low tables with open grill in the middle covered with tofu cubes and meat. The ground was wet and covered with used tissues and god knows what. We looked at each other sheepishly. After a moment of hesitation, we decided, what the heck, we would go for it.
Our driver helped us buy the pork and vegetables and we sat down at one of the more “decent looking” tables. The lady in charge marinated the pork in a plastic bag and splashed soy sauce over burning charcoal. We were entranced amidst the chaos of flames spewing out of the grill with choking smoke and strong aroma of burnt meat. It was an eye opening experience and I had to say that the barbecue was quite tasty.
We had a blast with the adventurous New Yorkers and through them we got a better idea of what growing up and working in New York is like. After four rather action-packed days, we said goodbye to them and returned to our leisurely pace and spent more time with our lovebird and cat.