A Feast

After a few days of waiting around in Langmusi, I got ahold of the village head and also Daerji. They were having a gathering at the winter village and asked me to go too.

My driver claimed he drove for the lama from the Sichuan side of the monastery. But he lied that the mountain path, the short cut to go to the village was closed for years — I was on it last year. On the way there, someone called him on the phone about prospective gold mine site near the village. With one near Maqu already causing problems, another one would be devastating.

Lots of people at the entrance to the village. They were not waiting for me, but government officials instead, higher level party members from the county, prefecture.

Three tents were set up on the grassland in front of the school. A couple of women guided me inside and there were trays after trays of meat on the table — the most in one setting I have ever seen probably. I was given a knife to carve the meat, and there were also momo dumplings, all kind of snack and drinks. Older herders sat around with the prayer wheel in their hand, spinning.

Soon a motorcade of jeeps rolled in and out came the suit-dressed officials. They were taken to the big colorful tent and out went more momos from the kitchen tent. A college-aged boy spoke good Mandarin so I chatted with him. A few familiar looking faces came in and out of the tent — I have been coming here for almost three years. “Eat More Meat!”, they said to me whenever they stopped by.

Eating went on for hours in the colorful tent while some of the women who came along went out to the field for photos of them in the grassland. Playing, drinking, eating later, the motorcade left. One of the women from the village told me they were given 30K Yuan from the local government to host the officials to come for this three-day feast. I was there on day two.

For the evening, Zuba arranged me to sleep in the communal house where the men and women who came to prepare the feast slept. The party continued, or, just started. Loud talking, laughing, more meat eating. When one of the women brought out a plate of flour, the room got rowdy. A nearly toothless guy became the target, then I was told, it was time to sing. If someone would not sing, the punishment was a choice between sniffing out a piece of candy hidden in the flour, or get a hair wash — I wasn’t sure why that was considered a punishment.

With the guy fighting, laughing, and people pushing and nudging him, two women brought out a wash bucket, detergent, and wash towel. The room laughed uncontrollably, peaking when the poor guy eventually gave in for a head wash.

The singing circle continued. Many of the herders are great singers. Many of them sang the tune Danku’s mom sang for me last year — that was the first time I heard of such tunes. Daerji and a slightly drunk Baisang made me sing too. My voice was no comparison to that of the Tibetan women. Poor Jiamu (Han Chinese).

The next morning, more cooking, heating up the momos, and another smaller feast with monks from the village monastery and a few other visitors I didn’t know about. Zuba asked Daerji to take me out to the pasture when the feast was over.

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