Guilt is a terrible thing to bring to a table. For hours our small bus had been buffeted by nature’s wrath, exposed on Guizhou’s mountain passes and only the dexterity and skill of our driver kept us this side of paradise.
Rain slashed our windows in a Hitchcockian shower-scene frenzy. Our schedule had been literally washed away. Up through gorges, down into valleys, tight bends, narrow roads, white knuckles. Then relief as we descended to the flatlands. We were in Buyi country and stumbled upon a village Yinzhai, nestled under mountains. A vision of tranquility. Still far from our eventual destination, we craved rest and nourishment.
Our arrival was unscheduled, only the gods could have known, but the choice of this particular village, just after 7pm, turned out to be divinely inspired.
“Can you feed us’’ shouted the driver to a woman in the village kitchen.
“Twenty minutes. Have a walk, see the village, relax,’’ came the assured response.
Darkness, as if reluctant, had not fully descended as the remains of the day saw nature exhausted by its exertions. Like us, the countryside was breathing a sigh of relief. Mountains looming over us now appeared picturesque. The sky streaked with red hues, no longer in torment, seemed to be blushing with embarrassment at its previous behavior.
Wits gathered after a short walk, we headed for the meal but first acknowledged an old discolored poster in the main village home displaying the core principles of the Buyi ethnic group. Heaven, Earth, Emperor, Ancestors, Teachers, it read. History was giving us the privilege of tapping us on the shoulder before we sat down to eat.