So here I am, arriving bleary eyed in the middle of the night from a 24hr+ journey, in the land of my ancestors. Well, some of them anyway. I'm a Brit for all intents and purposes, but my grandfather came to the UK from China in 1947.
I know very little of Chinese culture, and certainly posses zero language but this is a land of huge diversity, rich history and incredible beauty. We're here to film a documentary about the leader of a tiny village in the green mountains of Guizhou Province. Let me show you around.
A small city called Kaili
This is our first stop, a small city close to the villages. It's 'tiny' they assure me.
Wang & Wang
I'm 1 of 10 UK filmmakers specially selected to cover stories from some of China's rural regions. On my team is student producer Wang, and student assistant Wang. After a hugely enthusiastic and ceremonious welcome, we hit the road again.
Things get very rural, very quick.
Uncle Zhiwen, our protagonist, turns out to be a hugely humble and laid back yet confident man (maybe this really is where my roots lie...). As village leader, he shows us around.
We stay with Lou. He welcomes us into his home, and offers generous hospitality. Through his eyes we begin to understand the rural lifestyle. The constant, but less hectic, farming life. The intimate community and incredible self sufficiency. Lou has already helped lift this village out of poverty and he wants to see it thrive. When other villagers are drawn away to the city, Lou considers it his duty to stay.
Grandma Zhiwen still works hard despite her deafness and lack of mobility. She makes me look like a giant!
Unfortunately this Mulao community has all but lost its ethnic roots. For better or worse Han Chinese has dominated. However we do find a fantastic pair of old ladies who remember a few Mulao words and even a song!
There's also some witch doctor cleansing next door. Lou is a sceptic but most of the other villagers take it very seriously. Its complexity was certainly beyond me: processions, chants, sacrifices.
We've fallen in love with Lou, his family and his village. With the production complete it's time to say goodbye. We can only hope to have done his story justice. Shame I look like such a tourist really!
Before I go there's time for a quick session on the streets of Kaili. The contrast from rural to urban still blows my mind. And even in a city this size, I see no other foreigners.
That's it folks! Someone take me back?