I didn’t think a town could get much smaller than where I grew up in Southwestern Michigan, a town nicknamed Hooterville.
I especially didn’t think I could find one in a country known for big.
Chinese Hooterville is about two hours outside of Kunming, just past the Stone Forest of Shilin in Yunnan. No Shady Rest Hotel or Eddie Albert bouncing on a tractor. Just potholes large enough to swallow a trash bike.
No Sam Drucker or General Stores, either. Just a cat that froze at the sight of a MeiGuoRen.
Wafts of nature’s Four Way Nasal Spray instantly clearing my nasal cavities. Equal parts pig manure, livestock pine trees and corn fields.
As our car bumped down the road, we tuned into the only music available: the sing-songy voice of an old farmer, “La-la-la-la!” She swats her herd up a hill.
And what was I doing in Chinese village so small that you’d literally have to climb a roof to find wifi?
I was invited by my yogi instructor, DuoDuo. Half bohemian, half Mongolian warrior, DouDou keeps me on my toes even when I’m not in a downward dog pose.
Her bottle cap earring dances in the wind. “You come visit mom with me. Good food. Good air.”
The door to her mother’s home looked like a slice out of a red velvet cake, being surrounded by a white windowless wall.
Inside was an entire farm, a life like version of Fischer Price toy I had as a kid. One side was a room for pigs, the second side was for chickens, on the third was the kitchen and living area. A open area in the middle was for morning Tai Chi and laundry.
The kitchen didn’t have a refrigerator that tells you when you’re low on ice. But it did have a bathtub size wok.
Mama DouDou rolled out lunch on the small table.
“Simple food, you like? ”
“Sure.” You don’t travel this far to eat Totino Pizza rolls.
You could barely hear our conversation over the pig’s snorting.
Lunch was carried into the adjacent living room. Two beds, two chairs, and a single light bulb. The food was laid the food out on the bed, picnic style, the mosquito net keeping flies out.
I looked at the cracked concrete walls. “Does this place get cold?”
DouDou pointed to the hearth inside the corner of the cement bed. “Fire go inside. Very very much warm.”
Meanwhile, DuoDuo’s daughter took advantage of the break from her vigorous studies at a public Chinese high school. She like many of her classmates, live at the school during the week, rising at six am and studying until 11:30 without a minute to “make play”.
“Horrible punishment if you talk past bedtime”, she said while bouncy her black dog.
A few houses down belonged to Mama DuoDuo’s older sister or jiě jie. She raised quails for their speckled eggs. I used her latrine—an outhouse where you squatted over a mini cement version of a bobsled track which allowed things to shoot out back.
“Is Mama DouDou happy?” I ask.
“Very very much happy.”
In a world so plugged in, it was nice to find comfort that many opt out and can still dry your petticoats in the sunshine.