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Olympic torch ventures to China’s last frontier

KAILI, Guizhou, China (BP)–When the Olympic torch passed through Guizhou province, it ventured across the last frontier of China, the place modernity has not yet fully reached. Even the Chinese speak of the province as backward.

“Greyzhou,” some call it. Although it is lush, the sun seldom shines. Yet for a moment the torch illuminated this obscure, minority-rich region in mid-June.

Guizhou’s beauty is raw, a beauty without rating. Only recently has the province opened its doors to foreigners.

The route to Kaili, called the Miao and Dong minority capital, passes villages nestled in clefts of irregularly shaped mountains and shallow valleys. Terraced rice fields are key to the village economy. Farmers with pointy straw hats nimbly navigate the terraced fields carrying baskets across their shoulders.

Homes have racks of drying corn leaning against the front wall. The harvest goes on despite the passing of the torch.

Red posters plaster the sides of door frames -— their purpose is to usher blessing and luck into the home with every passing. It brings to mind the early Israelites painting their door frames with sheep’s blood to mark the homes of the godly.

The route into the city is lined by a wall of murals and ranks of police.

“Let the world understand China, let China walk toward the world,” one mural says. To the Chinese, hosting an event on the scale of the Olympics is a benchmark of how far they have come.

“The flame is a symbol of pride for our country,” a woman from Yunnan province says. “It shows we have overcome a barrier and are now a developing country.”

It is a dream, says a young woman from Bijie, a neighboring town. The Olympics are more than an event. They are an honor to the country and the individual.

“It is amazing to be here,” she says.

People have been on the streets since early morning. Vendors line the streets with multiple designs of Olympic T-shirts. They sell stickers that can be applied to faces or shirts. It seems as if every baby in Kaili has a China flag sticker on his or her cheek and a “Let’s Go China” headband. Miniature and full-size China and Olympic flags fly amid the crowd.

Old and young are on the streets. Most are content to mill around and enjoy the atmosphere. When tired, people squat on stairs leading to department stores.

Minority women in colored headscarves and silver earplugs make their way through the masses browsing through each vendor’s wares, never quite finding the perfect item, perhaps just basking in the joy of looking.

The torch route is blocked from all sides. A manmade brick wall was constructed overnight to limit the crowd.

“There are too many people, you cannot go and see,” someone says. Some have traveled from other cities to catch the torch run, only to have made the journey in vain.

A university student says she has seen many false reports on the news. The world is seeing only part of the story, she says.

Tomorrow there will be a wonderful story about how thousands of people saw the torch, she says. No one will report how thousands were kept away.

You can see the disappointment in her face.
Reported by Baptist Press sources.

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