Ксюша: coming to Yunnan, the best trip I’ve ever had

                    “Ксюша, things have changed, the university you're going to is on the mountain." In 2013, Ксюша was supported by the Confucius Institute in Ukraine to study in China, and she planned to study in Zhejiang, southeast of China. But later her friend of institute told her that she was arranged to study in Yunnan. 

                    At that time, Yunnan is not a well-known name to Ukrainians, it’s a “remote place” to them, and the first thought came to Ксюша’s mind is “I’m not going to there.” 


                    Ксюша was in Yunnan Nationalities Village. [Provided by Ксюша]

                    Ксюша was trying to get more information about Yunnan so she searched on the internet, and the first picture she saw was Yulong Snow Mountain. “It was my computer screensaver! And it was on my desktop for a year, I was dreaming about going there for a long time, so it must be fate that I met Yunnan!”

                    Chili, pepper, wild mushrooms, fruits… wonderful Yunnan tastes 

                    Once Ксюша set foot on the land of China, she began to see the totally different scenery from her hometown- Odessa, and also the lifestyle.

                    Before coming to China, Ксюша had no idea what the spicy flavor tastes like, because there is no chili in Ukraine. And when Ксюша went to the Chinese university canteen for the first time, she ordered a bowl of rice noodles. For Yunnan people, rice noodles are not very spicy food, but for Ксюша, that’s not the same. When her mouth touched the noodles, her tongue tip felt only pain and numb like being shocked by electricity. A sharp pain hit her tongue, eyes, throat and ears, and her face flushed. Ксюша got a lesson from this spicy flavor.


                    Ксюша was tasting the Caoya rice noodles in Jianshui. [Provided by Ксюша]

                    “I brought some spicy specialty for my family, and I was ‘blamed’ for this,” Ксюша laughed. Once her mother wanted to try Chinese cuisine and told Ксюша to take some Chinese condiments back, Ксюша chose pepper, because it’s more acceptable than chili. But her mother became more cautious after the “spicy specialty accident”. She added just one pepper, and after a short hesitation, she added another pepper. “It’s so funny, my mom added just two peppers in a big cauldron.” Ксюша felt a little proud, because she “is a Ukrainian who can eat spicy food.”

                    In Yunnan, Ксюша has found many delicious foods like Paoluda, ice jelly and wild mushrooms. Like Yunnan people, Ксюша eat wild mushroom hotpots every rainy season. “In Ukraine, I never ate mushrooms.” But here, tricholoma matsutake (松茸), termitomyces albuminosus (雞樅), boletus mushrooms(牛肝菌)… various fresh wild mushrooms have become Ксюша’s favorites, she prefers to eat outside : “it’s dangerous if I cook the wrong mushrooms.” 

                    Besides wild mushrooms, Ксюша loves Yunnan fruits best. The weather in Ukraine is cold and there are few kinds of fruits, only homegrown apples and pears, as well as bananas imported from Turkey. When Ксюша went to Xishuangbanna fruit wholesale market for the first time, she seemed to open the door to a new world. The fruits there were fresh and cheap: mango, eyeless pineapple, passion fruit, pitaya fruit, longan, wax apple, carambola, mulberry, litchi, egg fruit, guava... “in Xishuangbanna I can always find fruits I've never eaten.” And every time she went there, she would go first to the fruit wholesale market to eat fruits.


                    Ксюша was savoring tea. [Provided by Ксюша]

                    From a fussy eater to a girl who likes to eat everything, Yunnan has changed Ксюша. She said genuinely, “there are many delicacies in Yunnan, and everyone can find a flavor suitable for themselves.” Every year, Ксюша would bring Yunnan specialties back to Ukraine and share her life in Yunnan with her family and friends. One of the most interesting things is to take care of Asian elephants in Xishuangbanna.

                    Fed, bathed, pulled ears, life with Asian elephants

                    In 2016, on the recommendation of her university, Ксюша received an invitation from Yunnan satellite TV's “Being a Guest” to experience the local life in Yunnan. For an intermittent year, she had been to Yuxi, Ruili, Wenshan, Xishuangbanna…


                    During the shooting of “Being a Guest”. [Provided by Ксюша]

                    In a hot summer, Ксюша came to Xishuangbanna, where locates the China Asian Elephant Provenance Breeding and Rescue Center. Here, she would learn how to take care of Asian elephants. The staff assigned her an eight-month-old baby elephant. Ксюша needed to feed the baby elephant every day, check whether there were problems with its ears and teeth, clean the place where it lived, bath it and take it to the woods, Ксюша learned that this is to "let them not forget how to survive in the wild. When the elephants are recovered, the staff will send them back to nature."


                    Ксюша and Asian elephants. [Provided by Ксюша]

                    The baby elephant was still drinking goat's milk. The smell of goat's milk made other elephants think it was a sheep so they didn't play with it. And the little elephant was very close to people. When Ксюша arrived at 8:00 every morning, this 400-kg little elephant would run to her with its flapping ears, holding Ксюша's hand with its nose like a child. When taking a bath, the little elephant was very happy and naughty. "It sprayed water with its nose and got me wet." However, this work didn't scare off Ксюша, on the contrary, staying with little Asian elephant made her heart full of pleasure.


                    Ксюша played with Asian elephants. [Provided by Ксюша]

                    Once when Ксюша was doing some cleaning, an Asian elephant slipped out quietly. She hurried to find it. Finally, the elephant was found in the forest, and also two stunned people. She scolded the elephant in Chinese and then pulled its ear to take it back, “those two people must be very confounded.” Ксюша felt afraid later, because she didn’t know if the elephants would hurt her, but she thought that scene was funny at the same time.

                    For two weeks, Ксюша stayed with Asian elephants every day. Here, she saw the local villagers' solicitude to elephants. Even if the elephants went to the fields to eat plantains, corns or destroyed the tea gardens, the local people would not mind these losses. She also saw the efforts to elephants from of the staff of Rescue Center. Many people's feet are often trampled by these elephants, but they never beat and scold elephants. “Elephants are very happy to see people because they have always been loved here.”


                    Ксюша and Asian elephants. [Provided by Ксюша]

                    This summer, more than a dozen Asian elephants’ northward migration attracted the international attention. Family members in Ukraine called Ксюша and said excitedly. “Do you know there are Asian elephants in Yunnan?” Ксюша replied pleasantly, “of course I know!” She knows because she saw Yunnan's ecological and environmental protection has been doing so well that can provide comfortable living conditions for Asian elephants, she knows because she saw the government and people here had been feeding and protecting Asian elephants so that they could "willfully" go northward.

                    The shooting in Xishuangbanna made Ксюша be interested in Yunnan. After her master's degree, she chose to teach in her alma mater-Southwest Forestry University. Every long or short vacation, she would travel around Yunnan with her beloved and dog.

                    Sceneries, smiles, met the home of soul in Yunnan


                    Ксюша was on Jiaozi Mountain. [Provided by Ксюша]

                    Dali, Lijiang, Pu'er, Ruili, Nujiang, Xishuangbanna, Lincang, Yunnan Nationalities Village, Dianchi Lake, Cuihu Lake, Jindian Temple, Tanhua Temple... Ксюша's footprints are left everywhere in Yunnan. As she said, "Yunnan is very worth coming!"

                    Ксюша often went to places where are rarely visited by others to know the culture of Yunnan ethnic minorities. She enjoyed to chat with villagers because they looked straight at each other's eyes when talking. Liquid eyes, sincere smiles, this direct emotion makes her very comfortable.


                    Ксюша was on North Slope of Meili. [Provided by Ксюша]

                    She also cherished the rusticity of Yunnan ethnic minorities. In the minority Miao’s cabin, Ксюша sat beside the fire to keep warm. In fact, she didn't know anything about the owner of the cabin - an old lady. It was quiet in the room. One after another, people came in to warm themselves then left, the old lady was not surprised or worried at all, she just did her own things. Ксюша had come to the cabin for days, as if there was a tacit habit between them.


                    Ксюша was picking Chrysanthemum in Wenshan. [Provided by Ксюша]

                    Among the places passed by, Ксюша loves Shangri-La best. At night, people from all over the world sat around the fireplace of the old Tibetan room and drank buttered tea, this lively and friendly atmosphere made Ксюша feel joyful. When participated a Shangri-La event in 2017, Ксюша made a sincere speech: "Shangri-La is my favorite place in China, I love Shangri-La very much!" On the day she left, Ксюша saw a banner on a building, which said, “Shangri-La loves you too!” Ксюша was deeply surprised and moved.


                    Ксюша attended an ethnic wedding in Mangshi. [Provided by Ксюша]

                    There are countless such pleasures on the way. From sunrise to sunset, Ксюша climbed snow mountains, passed small villages, walked across fields, and had seen a myriad of scenery and smiling faces during these journeys. A marvellous feeling surged into her heart. This place is so close to her own soul.

                    “I didn’t want to come to Kunming at first, but now I’ve been here for nine years.” Ксюша couldn't tell what actually attracted her to stay, maybe the warm sunlight in winter, flowers blooming in four seasons, leisure and comfortable life here, kind and friendly Yunnan people. Perhaps every step of every journey is the answer, which has already made her be inseparable from this place. Like she said: “Yunnan has made great changes in my life. It is my second hometown. I ‘take root’ here and hope to ‘blossom’ here.”


                    Ксюша was working. [Provided by Ксюша]

                    A new journey has just begun: now, Ксюша began to research and translate books about Confucius. Perhaps this is also a fate. After all, it was the Confucius Institute in Ukraine started Ксюша's trip to Yunnan. She hopes to protect and promote Chinese culture and let more Ukrainians travel to Yunnan. "I want more Ukrainians to know Yunnan and China!"

                    Click here to view Chinese report.

                    (Editors: Amy, Christine)

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