I follow C. through the hot streets of Jinghong, smiling. We got out of bed early today, to experience the market in full swing. Although it's just 7 o'clock, the sweat is dripping from my forehead and my spine. My cotton clothes are too heavy and too thick. It's unthinkable to wear jeans. The silk clothes from home that have been with me these two years have become threadbare. All that's left is a skirt and a fluttering yellow dress. My wardrobe just isn't up to snuff anymore. It's ideal for a day watching Netflix, but a bit flashy for a market day on which I'm supposed to photograph the "locals" in their element. A task I'm reluctant to do anyway, but since I will not use the pictures myself, I agree. I haven't fully understood what my hosts are hoping for from my work, but since they cannot explain it to me, I assume they don't know it themselves. So, I do what makes sense to me and hope that they can use it. I feel like that's all I can do.
The market is beautiful. Although, it doesn't differ significantly from those in Europe, Russia, India or Iran. There is a base of tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic, leeks, zucchini, eggplants and parsley, which is the same all over the world. There are chickens and fish and grasshoppers and larvae (local specialities). Then comes all the fruit that we have as well, but that looks different in China: plums (looks more like cherries), radishes (are much bigger) and oranges (much smaller than ours and have green skin). There are fruits I have never seen before, like durian, jackfruit, mangosteens, dragon fruits, snakes, etc. And many more that I can't match to names.
In the vegetables are foremost women. Both selling and buying. They wear slippers or high heels, some fall out of a fashion magazine, others out of trash cans. Like anywhere else in the world, duty and pleasure are not far apart. At the meat counters, the gender is more balanced. Here the bone-separating hatch falls in regular rhythm on the pig, the chicken, the sheep or the cow. Tok. Tok. Toktok. The result is a rhythm of a thousand axes, which fall down on soft, bloody flesh. In one corner lies a killed calf, which, still untouched, awaits disassembly in the corner. If his hind legs weren't broken, one could give in to the illusion that it had fallen asleep peacefully. In another corner, a gutted pig lies grotesquely over the seat of a moped. If it were alive, it would fit into a kid's cartoon in this pose.
The market reveals the cruel reality of meat eating. What shocks many European travellers in China seems logical to me. Who eats meat, must understand how it's prepared. It is not crueller in China, people just haven't become accustomed to the meat washed and packed in plastic. Production and consumption are not neatly separated and anonymous. A person disassembles and sells the animal in front of the buyer. C. and I take pictures of everything. When we finish at 8:00 am and head home, it feels like we've been on our feet for a long time. In reality, we were there only for a good hour.
Back at the hostel, we each retreat to our corner and start working on the pictures.
The Zero Factory Hostel is a peaceful and surprisingly cool apartment in the otherwise stuffy city. C. and D. have made Jinghong their adopted home. They both come from completely different corners of China. C. comes from a small village in the southwest and D. from Beijing (although originally from the Mongolian minority). Together they have created a hostel in this small but beautiful city. It's a modern apartment, cast in grey concrete, which - with three dormitories, a double room and a large communal kitchen - invites travellers to gather and relax.
The next three weeks I have no blog posts coming your way. I'm visiting Europe before I make the final trip to Australia. Enjoy your summer! I will indulge in pizza, ice cream and wine and enjoy the rare time with my family to the fullest (without internet). xo
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