Sitting on small wooden stools, the silence was only broken by the sound of heavy rain and the vigorous brushes the woman gives to the soaked clothes in the red round plastic container. The husband astutely maneuvers the knife removing the tip and the stringy bit from the side of the green beans, separating those into a different container. Their son, maybe 6 or 7 years old, oblivious to us, holds a pencil in his hand, scribbling mandarin characters on his dusty notebook, determined to finish his homework.
The silence isn’t disturbing at all. It only gives space to contemplate the question “how could they trust us, such strangers, and give us shelter?!”
For the previous 2 hours my friend and I had been cycling the margins of the Li River, through the oldest villages of Yangshuo, a small town in the southern China’s Guangxi region. Riding as north as we could, I was in disbelief when I found myself surrounded by what looked like a picture from a postcard. The green lumpy landscape lounged along the rice terraces by the river, watching over the barefoot Chinese farmers hidden underneath their pointy round straw hats. I felt content.
The moody sky of Yangshuo hadn’t warned us about the rain that started pouring minutes earlier. When it hit us we stopped the bike by the side of the road to cover our bags and protect the cameras. Within a minute I could squeeze water out of my dress. When I looked left, this family of three stared at us from across their open rusty gate, sitting on small wooden stools and sheltered under the balcony of their modest house.
Before I looked away the husband gestures to invite us in, the woman disappears into the house to bring two small stools for us to sit and here we are. No words have been exchanged and they quickly got back to their family duties.
Overwhelmed by their generosity, I first felt frustrated. I wished so hard that I could speak mandarin, that I could translate the gratitude that was filling my chest, the feeling of privilege for being taken into the privacy of this humble Chinese family.
But then I finally understood!
That family spoke to me with their heart and the language from the heart has no culture boundaries, no language barriers and no social frontiers. It is universal and you must be disposed of pre-concepts to be able to speak it too.
PS. For once I didn’t grab my camera to capture that moment, instead I opted to just contemplate it. But here are some photos from that day, from the rooftop of our Hostel to sunset in the margins of Li River.