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  • Writer's pictureAlizée CCM

The Desert & Her Mysterious Ways | Joining The Silk Road | KAILU Ep 6 | Sustainability Documentary China


The theme of living and surviving seems prominent during our time in the desert. When I asked my friend Myles if there's a mantra or saying he lives by, he tells me: In Chinese, it's 未知即本质, which translates into the unknown is the only true reality. This means that the known is always biased.


The second mantra is 生存即生活, which translates into to survive is to live. I think they’re equal. I say this because people always say that survival is to survive, and to live is something higher. At some point, Myles shares a poem with me. 琴棋书画诗酒花, 当年件件不离它。 如今七事都变更, 柴米油盐酱醋茶。 It was written in the Qing Dynasty by a military general, Zha Weiren.


The first 7 characters mean: “music instruments (more specifically, a typical traditional Chinese instrument), chess, calligraphy, painting, poetry, liquor, and flowers.” The second line says: “People used these 7 things and they couldn’t live without them.”


Third line: “Now the 7 things have changed into firewood, rice, oil, salt, soy sauce, vinegar, and tea.” “This poetry means that people used to enjoy life, they used to see the beauty in their lives, and they couldn’t live in any other way.” He explains, “But the poem was written in a time when life was difficult and about survival, so the 7 most essential things changed from pleasure to the bare necessities.


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My time in Gansu was the most challenging of the whole trip, but it also carried one of the most precious gifts: a stronger friendship with my friend Myles. Nothing went as expected during our time in the desert, but we rode the waves of sand as much as we could and found a safe harbor in the city of Baiyin for a couple of days.


Thanks for journeying with us :-)


Watch this weeks episode on YouTube here!

KAILU, The Open Road.

A cross-country journey to meet the Chinese Changemakers in sustainability.

Roadtripping in China



 

Watch it here: The KAILU Docu Series


 


The Sustainable Barista - KAILU



Read an excerpt from the book here:

 

The next morning we woke up to police officers knocking on the Airbnb door. Some of the neighbors saw me walking past and alarmed the police officer that a foreigner was staying in the building. They were probably worried that I had COVID. By now I was used to being questioned, so I remained calm and showed my passport, the test we picked up the evening before, and all the other documentation. 


Myles explained we were on our way to Xiahe, to which they told us that the borders to the autonomous regions had been closed for all tourism. Even with our COVID tests, we wouldn’t be able to enter. 

Norlha confirmed this later with us over the phone. 


As we packed our bags into the car downstairs and moved out of Linxia, I already felt much better. In all honesty, I think I was also relieved to not go further inland. Something felt off about the whole thing since yesterday, as if it wasn’t meant to be for this time. 


Even though Gansu has no cases at this point, everyone is tightening up and it’s just too difficult to continue when half your day goes to finding a place to stay where you feel safe and welcomed. Moving forward doesn’t seem like a good plan, as I feel it will only get more difficult from here on. 


Myles suggests that we go to his hometown Baiyin for a few days, and figure out what’s next. I thought that was a good idea. While I drove us back north, Myles was calling hotels in Baiyin that would agree to have me stay. But none would have Khailou and me together. The plan is to have Khailou stay with Myles, his parents, and their dog Dante in their home, while I stay in a hotel in another part of town. 


It’s not a dream scenario, but I felt so grateful to his parents for agreeing to have Khailou stay with them in their home. At least, he would be safe and cared for, and he knows Myles already. 



Gansu - Silk Road Roadtrip - KAILU Documentary


7 Things We Can't Live Without


On our way to Baiyin, Myles shares a poem he read that goes like this: 


琴棋书画诗酒花,

当年件件不离它。

如今七事都变更,

柴米油盐酱醋茶。


It was written in the Qing Dynasty by a military general, Zha Weiren. The first 7 characters mean: “music instruments (more specifically a typical traditional Chinese instrument), chess, calligraphy, painting, poetry, liquor, and flowers.”


The second line says: “People used these 7 things and they couldn’t live without them.

Third line: “Now the 7 things have changed into firewood, rice, oil, salt, soy sauce, vinegar, and tea.


This poetry means that people used to enjoy life, they used to see the beauty in their lives and they couldn’t live in any other way.” He explains, “But the poem was written in a time when life was difficult and about survival, so the 7 most important things changed from pleasure to the bare necessities. 

I came across this poem during my research for the university on the drinking culture in China. This shows how Chinese culture has evolved and how our true essence and the beauty of our culture have been gradually hidden under the history of recent hundreds of years.


[...]


On my last night in Baiyin, Myles and his parents invited his childhood friends and me all to dinner. I arrived a bit earlier to see if I could help prepare. His dad was preparing jiaozi (dumplings) in the kitchen, while his mom was preparing other dishes. Myles and his friends were snacking on dried fruits and peanuts again, and playing with the dogs. It was such a nice atmosphere. 

Khailou and I would be leaving the next day and heading back down to Sichuan. Pursuing my trip north doesn’t seem like a good idea. My immediate plan is to return to Dujiangyan where I feel good and safe, where I am surrounded by green mountains, live in a small city where I know some people already, and ground myself again.


When Myles drops me back at my hotel after our evening walk, I am reminded of the poem he shared with me at the beginning of our trip. What are 7 things I can’t live without?





Sustainability Documentary China


 

Watch it here: The KAILU Docu-Series


 

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