Packing and Pika Catching

Sanji was called over to the pasture by his daughter and wife, so I stayed one night at his home alone. Before he left, he asked the neighbor woman to help me start the fire. Yak dung is actually fairly easy to burn, if done properly. My first try produced a lot more smoke than fire, until the helpful woman came for the rescue.

The old herder’s family planned to move in the next day or two, depending on the weather. And I was going to follow them.

Before Sanji made it back, the old herder’s son rushed over in a hurry. His Mandarin was close to nothing but from his gesture I could tell. It was drizzling and the family must be in a rush to pack. The yak-hair tent would get overly heavy if it gets wet. So, I jumped on the back of his motorcycle and was at their winter camp in no time.

Most of their belongings were spread on the ground. The wife, the old herder and his wife were all there. They must have been waiting for me. As soon as I got in, with hardly any time to get my camera ready, they took the tent down. Women still do most of the work, packing, rolling the tent while the men sit around and chatted.

Their children came back from school as well. They were giggling in the truck bed while the adult packed. Turned out, they were playing with the small plateau pikas which have become so prevalence on the grassland. I asked the old herder to let his grandsons show me their pika catching techniques. The kids did so gleefully. It was a team work, once they were sure of a catch, one of the kids would swing his shirt very hard on the ground, the other blew at one of the holes while the brave and lucky one put his hand in the exit hole waiting for their trophy to come out. They had a few to show off in just a short time.

The family will stay in a temporary small tent tonight and move the next day.

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