Salaam alaiki Ms Mah!
Alhamdulillah, I am very very thankful to Allah for allowing me to embark on this memorable (this is an understatement actually) trip on the 6th of December 2008. Honestly, I had NO idea what to expect in China, what I'd see or what I'd experience throughout those 12 days there. All I depended, pre-trip, were the pictures and descriptions on Amylia's blog for her trip in 2007.
I remembered just feeling a great sense of anticipation, yet at the same time, tawakkaltu 'ala Allah, at the airport before our departure. Haha. :)
Goodness, I have NO idea where to start even. I don't think I'll be able to cover all the places or everything, so I'll just pick out some or else it will be a very very long email! :)
I remembered stepping into NanCheng Mosque which was to be our 'staple' mosque and eating place whenever we were at Kunming. We had our EidulAdha prayers there, and it was an unforgettable experience, being amidst these Chinese people, us coming from such different backgrounds, cultures and races but ultimately bonded together through our Ad-Deen, Islam… It was very emotional for me especially when everyone recited the takbir together, the varying accent ringing in my ears. Unforgettable, certainly!!!
The next highlight was the Qurban rituals at Da Bai Yi Village. If my memory doesn't fail me, I believe we reached the village at night. So many villagers came down to greet us, standing in such a pristine line, from the kids to the elderly, eagerly waiting for our arrival in the dark! I was so taken aback initially, and was touched beyond words. They were incredibly warm and welcoming, bellowing out their Salaam with such gusto and I've to admit, I remembered tearing as I salaam them.. I honestly, cannot find a word to justify what I truly feel. Little did I know that there would be more of such welcomes in the days to come.
We had our dinner at Da Bai Yi Village and I recalled getting to know some of the adorable little girls there. They were the sweetest bunch, and I still remember a bunch of them bringing me around their village in the dark. They were SO brave! I felt so cowardly beside them. Haha!! Since I was able to speak a smattering of Mandarin, I tried to communicate awkwardly with them, whatever that I could manage. I would remember these sweet little ones for life, really. They were so welcoming, so endearing MashaAllah! And I was amazed at the amount of food (delectable at that!) they prepared for us for dinner. Yet again, I'd NO idea that there would be more of such feasts. Alhamdulillah!
I witnessed my first China-Qurban rituals in Da Bai Yi. It was one unforgettable moment, the camaraderie among the villagers and the amusing excitement in trying to 'chop' (reserve) our respective goats. Ha ha!! Even young boys participated in the Qurban, handling the goats almost effortlessly (even when the goats were thrashing wildly around which scared the wits out of some of us haha!!). I've to say, this is a far cry from Singapore because we usually see the pakcik-pakcik(elderly folks) doing the job of Qurban. :)
Next, we visited the Dian Bai Mu Madrasah. Here, I will always remember their amazing fried dumplings, MashaAllah.! They were so freshly made; we actually could witness the ladies getting busy in the kitchen, mincing the meat, flattening the “wanton” dough skin and all. Very gotong-royong(co-operative), as how the Malays would put it. This is one of the better-conditioned madrasahs around. Alhamdulillah! . I remember standing on rooftop of the madrasah and savouring the ambience around me, MashaAllah!
The most memorable and certainly unforgettable for life, would be the Yang Zai Village. I'm sure my two buddies who came with me ,Aisyah and Shazwani would agree with me on this. The journey to the place itself was memorable. We had to plough through long hours and cross rivers which was one unique experience for sure! Upon our arrival, SO many villagers came to welcome us, just like at Da Bai Yi. I remembered salaam-ing them and a few elderly women actually cried and I could not hold back my own feelings. They seemed so touched and happy…MashaAllah. Honestly, among the many villages or madrasahs we visited during the trip, I have to admit that Yang Zai is the most deplorable, however, this place left the biggest indelible impact for me in the trip. I remembered standing on the 2nd storey of their madrasah and just absorbed the surroundings in. I could only see vast and seemingly endless barren land, there were no shops, nothing. They were literally ON a hill! and there was nothing else. I remembered heading back to the hotel and talking it out with Aisyah and Shaz on what we saw. It was almost haunting. It made us reflect on Life lots for that night. Despite the poverty, the villagers were generous in their smiles and laughter and they prepared such a grand feast for us, MashaAllah. It was a mighty “kendur” feasti for the whole village, where everyone came together and enjoyed getting to eat meat, which was a very very rare occasion for them. This place, became special, despite being one of the poorest. I really hope we all are able to come up with more donations to inject to Yang Zai..especially to better their toilets and sanitation amenities…InsyaAllah!
Then we visited MaoHuoJie madrasah and I remembered the HUGE, steaming meat buns they prepared for us. Heavenly! We did our 2nd round of Qurban. As Miss Mah said, this madrasah is the biggest Islamic training centre in Yunnan. I was in awe at how driven they were in pursuing the field of Ukhrawi. However, the girls' dormitory in the damp basement or “dungeon” was in dire need of improvement.. This is another section where I pray and hope that we are able to come up with funds to improve the living conditions of these girls…
Next on the itinerary was Hei Shi wah village. The most memorable moment here was the performances they put up for us by all ages! We had the little kids, the teenagers and even the elderly bunch to sing nasyids and perform for us, MashaAllah. They had so much fun, and I could remember some of the elderly women nudging one another to be at the front of the stage because they were so shy. Haha!!. I remember tearing during their performances because honestly, you cannot help but feel so touched by their sincere gestures and efforts, and ultimately, appreciation…
On the way to Shangrila, we dropped by the Tiger Leaping Gorge and it was one of the most beautiful sight ever. The waterfall, the gushing river… it was therapeutic! (But making our way up, for those who descended those flights of stairs, was quite a nightmare! Haha!.) The most interesting part! We could pay the men to CARRY us up in some sedan-like seats if we are too exhausted to climb up. I was beyond awed by their strength! But none of us employed their services because we wanted to challenge our own stamina (especially me, PANCIT TEROS!punctured!). Haha!! The Gorge, was beautiful, simply said.
The journey to the villages in Shangrila was very long but we got to witness the breathtaking mountainous scenery as we ascended. We could see snow-capped mountains, nothing we could ever get here in this urban-jungle Singapore. (: We stayed in a lodge, and the water was FREEZING, BITING COLD! But it made everything all the more memorable, certainly, with our chattering teeth and all. Haha! I remembered feeling breathless looking at the star-filled sky in the middle of the night, SubhanaAllah… All of us were smitten by the adorable kids we saw in both villages at the kindergartens. Haha!! They were so small but mashaA! llah, to know that they are receiving Islamic education at such a young age was simply heartening. Hearing the children singing out nasyids with such enthusiasm touched us all… And here would be another place we could pump more funds to better the conditions of the kindergartens.. for these kids…who knows, they might just be great leaders in disseminating Islam… InsyaAllah..
All in all, I would not exchange my experience and time in China for anything else. The memories are too precious and to me, this trip was such a big blessing from Allah…Thank you Ms Mah for your endless energy in organising this trip… I really really respect you! May Allah bless you for all your efforts and great intentions… Ameen ameen. It would certainly have been impossible without you, Ms Mah. So thank you! No doubt, it'll be a dream to go on this trip again, with God's will.
I encourage others to join this trip because I am certain that you will go home with lot s and lots of wonderful memories and insyaAllah, it will open up doors of reflection for us, and be better servants of Allah… indeed, this is a trip with a great great cause… Do join! You won't regret it, ever. (:
I hope my humble writeup helps, in a way or another. I really really miss China.