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Dreams and Hopes

Roger Hsu
Translated by Ronald Hwang

The mountain stays silent,
How can a lone bird fly?
A lamp, A lamp, light it,
Let the brilliant fire, rise up and fly
Amidst the raging water.

Thanks to modernization, it is now easy to reach the Nu Jiang watershed district in the South-west region, the "Land of the steaming jungle fever". To get there, take a 45 minutes flight from the Changshui Airport in Kunming, Yunnan to Bao Shan, and then another 2.5 hour drive to Liuku. Liuku is capital of the Nujiang Lisu Autonomous Prefecture and Lushui county . It was known as "Lukou"in the old days. It is a land of rare birds and animals, a favorite hunting ground for deers of the rich and the aristocrats, thus the name of "Lukou"( Captured Deers). In the past, if one were to ask how far is the hospital in Kunming from the poor villages (hamlets) in this region, the answer one would doubtlessly get from the villagers would be, "not in a life-time, how can a lone bird fly?" Now, I say, that is wrong!

Sitting in front of me, in an individual interview, was a timid middle school girl, with dark complexion, wearing her school uniform with only a pair of rubber sandals on her feet. As I asked her, " what do you want to be in the future?" With a nervous tweak, and an even shier smile, she answered bravely with a twinkle of excitement in her eyes," I want to be a doctor!". Besides being moved by her reaction, a baffling surge of excitement engulfed me simultane-ously. This girl is one of the 12 Lisu Lisu nationality kids sponsored by the PEACH Founda-tion. On holidays, coming home from school, these kids have to climb a mountain trail for an hours after getting off the bus. Most of the kids in this region have never stepped beyond the town of Liuku.

Late in October, fifteen of us in the 2014 Nu Jiang Home Visit Team of the PEACH Foundation paid a visit to the three counties of Lushui、Fugong、Gongshan at Nu Jiang. Instead of touring places of scenic beauty and mystic legends, our eyes witnessed blood and sweat at the fringe of the world, a reality that could be felt and touched with our hands. And our ears were drowned by the cries from the abyss. "Eat from the mountain, drink from the streams." The minority people of this region farm corns, sugar canes and buckwheat of little commodity value by cul-tivating the poor soil of the steep mountains and perhaps keep a pig if they are lucky to feed themselves. They might have enough to keep them from hunger with these (nutrition is another matter), there is none left to generate any saving to speak of whatsoever. With no saving, how can they afford to send their kids to school? There is no other choice for the kids but quit school. The girls are married off in their early age and the boys go back to farm, living with the parents and grandparents, and perpetuate the same fate of the family passed down from genera-tions.

"…I am the son of a poor farmer… I have suffered since very young, father passed away early, I was brought up by my sister…By the time I grew up, my brother-in-law passed away, I had no choice but to take care of my sister and her family…Trimming the fruits trees…low wage, eat a meal and starve at the next…When winter arrived, even that job was gone, it was especial-ly cold that year…" These were phrases in the novel "Les Miserables" by the famous French author, Victor Hugo. In this present 21st century, put them in the lives of the children of Chi-na’s poor mountain regions, these are the vivid descriptions of their world. As we live on this earth, we try to reach out our hands for the sky. Yet, these children suffering in desperation and poverty are not just mere statistics but real living faces.

The sceneries of the mountains are full of primordial beauty. Its sky can be crystal blue dotted with white clouds at one moment and shrouded in the mysterious and softly expanding fog at another. Serpentine trails wandering amidst the terraced fields framed by dense forests climb far and high. The Nu Jiang coursing through the tall peaks and steep ridges of Biluo snow mountain and Gaoli mountains towards Myanmar is a raging rapid at one point and calm as a lake at another. On the sixth day, we returned to Liuku through Fugong from Bingzhongluo Township, north Gongshan County. Traveling along the winding road along the Nu Jiang, out-side of the window are layers and layers of towering mountains and peaks, echoed by the deaf-ening roar of raging water. Has the magnificence of these majestic mountains silenced the cries from below? It was time to depart. I focused my mind’s eyes. Once again I saw those timid smiles, reverberating in my heart, growing more real as I traveled further along. We are such minuscule individuals, what changes can we bring? There is a wonderful quote by Mother Tere-sa, "If you can’t feed a hundred, feed just one." In Life, Fulfillment comes from Compassions; Regrets are casted away by Gratitudes. If all of us are truly grateful for what we have, "love thy neighbors as yourself" is not just something to be muttered only at church on Sundays. I am so fortunate to be able to participate in the dreams of these children, and be able to help a little towards capturing their hopes for the future. I am thankful.

As I turned back and looked up, there it was, the beckoning call from two thousands years of old, floating between the chiseled walls of the mountains, rushing along the raging water flow-ing down the River.

 

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