Tiger Hunters - My Family Travels
Children of the Tiger Hunters

The rustic orange color of mud had completely taken over my black converse high-tops, my hands, and my knees by the time we got through the dense forest. The mud combined with the water flowing from a small rift in the surrounding rock turned that path into a slippery slide of mud, water, and possibly animal dung. Breaking through the forestry, we began to see the old wooden houses that the people of the Lahu village continued to live in today. This Chinese ethnic minority group had retained its unique culture, language, and customs thanks to the mountain that separated it from industrialized cities.

Tonight we would explore the village, eat food prepared by the villagers, and sleep in the villagers’ houses. After setting our backpacks down in our grouped “host families,” we began exploring. The narrow dirt streets were deserted except for a few women, roosters, and children. The sound of snorting could soon be heard and sure enough, one of the houses had a pen filled with little piglets and a huge mother sow. Walking around that same house, we saw another pen, this time containing hens, roosters, and ducks. We continued exploring and soon found a basketball court with two guys competing against each other and adjacent to that was a small swing where two little girls where enjoying the evening breeze.|

Once the sun began to set, we returned to the host families and got ready for dinner. We were a little apprehensive since many of us had gotten food poisoning in the last city, however we worked up the courage to eat. The food was amazing! We couldn’t get enough of every single dish, and believe me there were a LOT of dishes! We stuffed ourselves to the brim and were ready to pass out on our beds from exhaustion. Those plans however came to a halt when we were herded to the town center. We sat down in front of a huge pile of wood, talking amongst ourselves and laughing with the small town children. The pile of wood soon became a glowing flame, lighting up the dark country night and with it came a pin-drop silence. Confused, we looked to our teachers for direction, yet only managed to receive grins of glee. Someone cleared their throat causing all of us to turn our heads back to the bon-fire. A group of towns people had gathered in front of the flams wearing the black clothing with fiery red strips unique to their culture.

“We would like to sing a song for you in order to welcome you, and to tell you about our history.” Soon the womens’ melodic voices rang out into the silent night air, while the men played instruments and awaited their parts. The Lahu villagers used to be tiger hunters, they would carry long sharp spears into the dangerous forests of Yunnan seeking tigers more then any other animal. As soon as they saw it, two things could happen. There was the stealthy kill which brought the tiger down in one attack, or there was the chase. The tiger would notice their presence and run arousing their hunter spirits and causing them to chase after the lone animal. If lucky they would soon be carrying its carcass to the village, and if not, then next time they would surely get it.

The raging flames of the bon-fire, the melodious singing and the dancing of the Lahu people had us all mesmerized! That night all we could dream about was the hunt, the chase and the kill.

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