Vivian was eating breakfast a couple of weeks ago when she announced to our housekeeper (in Chinese), "Xiao Li, Mama and I are going to meet your family!" Xiao Li nearly dropped the plates she was stacking, choked a little, and stuttered, "really?" The backstory is that Vivi and I had spoken, in the abstract, of how nice it would be to meet Xiao Li's family. The next possible moment, Vivi was making arrangements.
Xiao Li is nothing if not gracious and kind. She called her parents and made the arrangements. She gathered her family, made a bunch of food, and waited for us on the street corner at 8 am. Her husband Zhang helped navigate the backroads to her parent's village, and her little niece Jia Xuan came along to play with Vivian on the long drive.
We drove to Xiao Houzhai, taking 2 1/2 hours to drive the 100 km on often bumpy dirt roads surrounded by scrubby pine trees and rocky hills, beautiful and dusty scenery that in many ways reminded me of the place where I grew up. We passed village after village, orchards of fruit trees, fields of potatoes and taro, and vast stretches of land made colorful by ripe hot chili peppers ready for harvest. We passed cows and goats, chickens and dogs, and truckloads of pigs.
This is a land of farmers, who, unlike city dwellers, live in traditional Chinese village houses. Each house is a small walled compound built around a courtyard. Courtyards are multi-functional spaces that are shared by people and their livestock alike. This is the home where Mr. Zhang and his wife raised four children, and the home where Xiao Li grew up with three generations around one courtyard. Xiao Li lives in the city now, but her family remains in the village.
I have dozens upon dozens of photos of this day, of Xiao Li's generous family, of the feast they provided, of the fun the children had, and of apple picking. Far too many photos to share here, sadly. But I will share some of my favorite moments on this unforgettable day of abundant smiles.
clockwise from top left: beef and onion dumplings made by Xiao Li's mother, Xiao Li's brother cooking lamb stir-fry, Xiao Li's mother gathering wood for the stove, Xiao Li cooking dumplings in a giant wok.
clockwise from top left: the feast, Xiao Li's mother, Xiao Li, and Jia Xuan, some of the food, and Mr. Zhang, Xiao Li's father.
Clockwise from top left: Corn drying in the village, Vivi using a gourd basket, Vivi inspecting an insect, Vivi and (Young) Zhang, apples and insects.
For these layouts, I am trying out some free storyboard templates generously provided for download by The Coffee Shop and Pugly Pixel. Linking up with the weekly Simple As That photo challenge.