My Tibetan family consists of mother, father, grandma and grandpa and two brothers. Our family also includes two cats, one dog, two mules, six pigs, two cows, four yaks and a rooster and a few chickens. Our old dog just died recently and we kill two pigs every year, but some new ones are born as well. And the next baby yak is going to be mine! The cows and last years baby yak are moms, and dad and the brothers each has a yak bull. It’s time for me to have one. Last years baby yak loves pigs. When she was weaned of her mom, she took the pigs as surrogate, and likes to suck their ears.
All the animals run around free in the village except during the planting season. They return home every night (well, at least most nights). During the tourist season the mules have to work daily carrying people up the mountain, but now they also can have a rest. I feel so sorry for the dogs. If they aren’t shepherd dogs they spent all of their lives chained down in a short leash. We need the guard dogs as the animals roam around free, so they would come inside the house and eat all the fodder and vegetables mom has worked so hard to get. We need to listen to the dogs. Especially goats are excellent climbers and able to get anywhere. On the other hand, the cats are really enjoying their lives here. Cats are of course necessary as there’s food everywhere for the mice to eat. But the cats are also especially loved. They get treats from the table and mom would even let them sleep with her. The Tibetans say that one hair in the fur of a cat is blessed by the Buddha.
When I came to Xidang we agreed on the rent that I would pay every year, but now the family has practically adopted me. I’m the daughter that especially mom always wanted. Of course I can’t pass as a real Tibetan daughter because I’m no good in the field work, which is womens job. The only thing mom let’s me help her with is washing dishes. But at least I’m female companionship for her in a house full of males. Although farm work is womens job, it doesn’t mean that the men spent their days doing nothing. Everybody works very hard from morning till night, and men also participate in larger farming projects. The older of the brothers drives tourists up from Lijiang which means he’s never home. He also married a Han Chinese girl, so they are never going to live here in the village. In practice, this means that the younger son has to marry a Tibetan girl regardless of his own wishes. Mother can’t keep doing most of the field work alone for much longer.