Last month, I went on a rather rollicking research trip with my Nuosu colleague Aga Rehamo, her husband Muge, who kindly drove the family car for a week over roads not meant for it, and two bright graduate students from Sichuan Normal University College of Education: Wang Huan and Feng Shuang. We were visiting schools in seven counties in Liangshan to investigate the state of Nuosu-Chinese bilingual education. Not good, but that’s a story for another post. What I want to talk about here are visits with three graduates of Yangjuan School who are now teachers or officials in Liangshan, and all of whom are featured on the inside cover pages of our 2017 Cool Mountain Calendar.
Meigu County is the heart of Nuosuland. Over 98% of the county population are Nuosu people, including almost all the major officials, most schoolteachers, an increasing number of businesspeople and store owners, and all the farmers. The historic heart of Meigu is in Niuniuba, about 20km south of the county seat. Niuniuba is where Ma Xiaolan, graduate of Yangjuan School in 2005 and B.A. from Xichang College in 2015, is now teaching 8th grade mathematics. Wang Huan and I visited Niuniuba Middle School by three-wheeler when the family car (see above) got high-bottomed on a road under construction and had to be towed–fortunately the damage was easily fixable and the others joined us a few hours later. Xiaolan was there to greet us, and we had a long interview with her and her principal, a contentious discussion with a Han teacher who still held prejudicial views about Nuosu people, and a visit to a Nuosu language class. Xiaolan has settled in well to this all-boarding school with over a thousand students, and will probably stay there for a few years.
Another 15km south of Niuniuba is Daqiao (a town that, as far as I know, it has no Nuosu-language name, having been built around the “big bridge” after the Communist revolution), and 10 km from Daqiao is Gebu Village, which has a 2-year, first- and second-grade, “teaching point” which is a branch of the Daqiao Town elementary school. Ma Saye, who graduated from Yangjuan in 2006 and got his professional degree (equivalent to an A.A.) in 2016, was assigned to this village school. Although he was a star athlete who majored in physical education, he was assigned here as a second-grade math teacher. We had to abandon our plans to visit his school when the car broke down, but Saye came to town and treated us to lunch, along with his principal. There are five teachers in his school, and only three classrooms. Unlike Yanyuan county, where village schools, including Yangjuan, have all been closed, they are still prevalent in Meigu. Saye said he teaches in standard Mandarin, and that students, even though they don’t speak the language fluently, can do math in it. He probably will teach at such a remote place for only a year or two, and after that will be transferred to a real school.
After some time in Xichang and in Xide County, we spent two days in ga and Muge’s home county of Ganluo, where I had the opportunity to catch up with Li Ajia. He finished his A.A. degree in engineering earlier this year, and is now working for the highway department of Ganluo, making plans for road improvement (something that is definitely needed all over Liangshan). He said that many days he’s a normal office worker, 8:30 to 5 with a lunch break, but that most of the time he’s literally on the road, and as such has visited and consulted on road projects in almost every corner of Ganluo, a land of steep cliffs and deep gorges.