One of the mornings, after Daerji herded their horses out to the open, he took me to film Xingcuo, Bird Lake. A few families in his group had their tent close to it. When I came to see these deserts for the first time, Sangku and Daerji took me to the other side of the lake and I filmed there. Nobody was around that time. I was glad I got to come back and filmed the people. Without people’s stories, a desert is just another desert.
It was quite a view. On the highest hill, both sides, the lake and the river valley were under full display. The lake was quite spotty, definitely not a continuous body of water and I could see no birds. The pity little stream that was supposed to flow to the Yellow River from the lake was a black, muddy cut on the ground at best. Where have all the water gone? It rained quite frequently this year, and last year too people said.
Filmed quite a bit. A handsome looking herder came on a white horse and we followed him to his home. Turned out it was the home of one of the thread making helper women. Their two daughters were preparing a meal. One of them goes to college in Lanzhou. That’s quite an accomplishment considering her family’s condition. She was so shy to speak Mandarin in front of her parents, and only spoke to me secretly on my way out — she wanted to get out of here, so much about the pasture she did not like, deserts, people. That’s the trend for young people here. Daerji’s daughter wanted to be a doctor and would not consider herding a worthy work to do.
I hoped to film a group of herders discussing their land. Daerji helped me gathered a few. But once the interview questions started, they became quiet. Either my questions were all wrong or they truly couldn’t say much. Or a combination of the two. For whatever reasons, that plan didn’t go. The wind picked up, afternoon rain came. Could have been a sign that that wasn’t quite a good idea.