AiJiLun inspects my crudely drawn sketches of ideas for birchbark items, somewhat baffled at her perceived complexity of them. I met her just under 2 years ago (More is Equal to Less). She has no recollection of who I am, oblivious to the fact that it was the few days I spent watching her work and talking to her niece-in-law (Fire of Knowledge) that I became fascinated with the Oronchen and birchbark world.
It was this fascination that initiated my return to Northern China and to Tuohe. As I wandered around this tiny village, recognising faces but no longer the buildings, I am struck by how much yet how little had changed. Bulldozed and rebuilt beyond recognition was where I stayed on my previous visit (The Great Firewall). Most of the residents have been or are in the process of being relocated to a large area just on the outskirts of the town in rows of tidy identical terraced bungalows. Driving slowly down one of the lanes, we attempt to drop off an uncle of a friend who has trouble recognising his house from all the others that look the same. This is the new landscape of modern village life in China, and those caught up in the change are still finding their way.