As a ‘laowai’ or foreigner with blonde hair and clear blue eyes, I’m used to getting stared at. Curious glances are often glued to my face, clothes, and chest. I’m the only white girl in town and often the first westerner local people have ever come across. After nearly a decade in southwest China, I’ve lost the urge to stop dead, turn around, and scream. “Has no one ever taught you that it’s rude to stare?!” Being ‘special’ and a social outcast is part of life in this area. As is jumping over blobs of phlegm in the street, dodging men and women on high speed, but deadly silent, motorbikes, and picking out a live chicken at the market whenever I feel peckish for drumsticks. Nowadays, I even find inspiration in the strangeness of my life.
The streets are teeming with women in colorful costumes. Their long, flared skirts dance in the wind. Their silver jewelry reflects the bright sun. Men stand around the market place, often selling or buying goats. They are Black Yi, or Nosu, an ancient tribe that dwells in Northern Yunnan and Southern Sichuan. For millennia, they’ve ruled their territory with a kind of force that reminds me of Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto, minus the horrible human sacrifices. The Black Yi were robbers, bandits, kings, horse masters, and above all revered by the other peoples of China. Their community has ever been impenetrable to outsiders. Their bloodlines stay pure, for they believe that their black (superior) blood does not mix with the unworthy. Never before was a Black Yi man allowed to marry a non-Yi woman. Not until Anzi Aku turned my world upside down and made me his Nosu bride.
For what felt like an eternity, Anzi and I battled for the clan’s acceptance. It’s still hard and our relationship is subject to scrutiny wherever we go. I’m not sure what eventually changed his family’s mind about our marriage. Perhaps they finally realized that our love was unbreakable. Maybe they simply gave up. But after nearly five years of struggle, they finally gave us their blessing.
My life has changed dramatically. Clan life means forsaking your individual ambitions. Striving for the prosperity of the tribe is key, a concept that was completely alien to me. But even though this way of living is sometimes insufferable, it also serves as a great source of inspiration for the writer in me. Reborn, a different woman altogether from the selfish Dutch brat I once was, I’ve gained access to the Nosu’s greatest mysteries. I mingle in their world of shamans and ancient stories of spirits, demons, and worlds unknown.
My latest novel, The Fire of Dawn (although set mostly in Europe and Siberia), is a direct result of my encounters with the paranormal in China’s Wild West.
For more information about my life in China or upcoming releases, please join me on Facebook: www.facebook.com/VVAKU.
V.V. Aku: writer, mother, rock-climber, kung fu addict. and explorer, lived in China on the border of Tibet with her Black Yi family for over a decade. She recently moved back to The Netherlands where she devotes her time to writing book and scripts for film and TV.