Be Bright and Fearless
I’m obsessed with these lovely images that Corlie from Red Buffalo Trading sent me two weeks ago, aren’t they incredibly beautiful? I dream that someday I will be able to paint the walls of my own house, just like they did in theirs. I hope that day will come soon.
Talking about homes and dreams, some of you may have read how difficult it was for me moving to a New Country. I was cranky, sad and feeling terribly lonely. It was a hard time for me. I thought about packing my bags and going back to mexico many times, I found my myself crying in bed because a man in the store didn’t understand my accent, I felt stupid when my little nephew said that I didn’t speak English well and many more simple and silly things that at the time seemed important and difficult.
So after going through that I felt that I had this connection with other people that have been through similar situations. I have talked to many bloggers that are from other countries and made new friends that went through a hard cultural shock. So a couple of days ago I received an email from Corlie. Her story was so interesting and unique that I fell in love with it.
Here’s Corlie’s incredible story:
Hi my name is Corlie. I have lived in South West China, Kunming city, Yunnan province for the past 2 and a half years.
I came to China from my native country, South Africa to travel and work a bit with my then boyfriend, now husband. We very unexpectedly ended up staying in this little corner of ethnically rich Yunnan and am now what I could call pretty much fully integrated into Chinese society. Kunming is different than Shanghai and Beijing and all the rest. It’s a pretty rural city of 7 million people. People still stare a lot because we are foreign, the startle when we speak to them in their language, they pull at the hair on our arms and check the roots of our hair to see if it has been dyed or if its naturally “yellow”.
Where we go travelling people plough the fields with buffaloes and carry the crop on their backs in woven baskets. They water the fields with little buckets tied to bamboo poles and they walk back and forth to the canals that run around the fields. It is like living in a weird mix of the up and coming developing world and the very rural world of decades ago. Soon I expect Kunming too will change, but now it is a really unique place to be! There are 25 minority groups in Yunnan making up 38% of the province’s population. We border Laos, Vietnam, Burma and Tibet. So you can imagine what a cultural dream this place is!
I have studied Mandarin Chinese the past two years in order to start working with the local people and so learn more of the culture. In my opinion I have achieved this goal. Very few people here speak English, only some of the students that are at university. I go to the market to buy food in Mandarin, I go to the bank, the hospital, the post office, the shopping malls, the craft markets, the tea markets all having to use Mandarin.
This skill has enabled me to dig deeper into the ethnic minority and local culture and so I have started a website called redbuffalotrading.com where I offer ethnic jewelry, handbags, and some home ware from around the region.
I also travel a lot in Southwest Asia as my husband works in agricultural research so the opportunities to go to Vietnam, Laos and Thailand are plenty. As I travel around I make contacts, form connections and relationships with locals, buy products as samples and steadily upload it to the website.
I also work as a volunteer Occupational Therapist in China with kids with cerebral palsy from the poor villages surrounding Kunming city where we live. I cannot get a medical license to practice in China as I am a foreigner so that is also why I started the website, to try generate an alternative form of income to enable me to work with the kids at the rehab centre. Right now I do 3 mornings a week at the centre, and 3 afternoons teaching English, and then two days a week sourcing products and working on the site.
Life out here is interesting, and filled with amazing opportunities but it can also be super frustrating and I often feel really out of touch with the “real” world. I have just opened my site and becoming more in touch with others that love color and beauty has been a great experience so far and I hope it will only grow from here!
She opened Red Buffalo Trading to support herself through this journey. The products are pretty interesting, colorful and have beautiful stories behind them. I like that you can look through the pictures of the people that have made them and I love that Corlie is pretty passionate about culture, color and the beauty of the world, I just feel that we speak the same language.
She made me dream and believe. I hope her story inspired you and that you enjoyed this little tidbit from a place you may never have heard of before.
Visit her blog to know more about her adventures – Xo, Elba