National Geographic : 1981 Jun
sense told me that China was also a back ward country that had been cut off from the outside world for many years and was badly in need of modernization. The cultural offi cer had not been able to enlighten us or even tell us what our job would entail. WITH YANG ZHIDA we flew from Guangzhou in a small jet and landed three hours later in brilliant sunshine on the mile-high Yungui Plateau in south-central China. This was the very airport that Gen. Claire Chennault had used as his Flying Tigers base nearly 40 years before. As we drove into Kunming, renowned as China's City of Eternal Spring, my first impression was color: intensely blue sky above the encircling mountains; rosy cheeked mountainfolk; a riot of camellias, azaleas, magnolias, cassias; willows burst ing into golden-green leaf. And on the streets the costumes of Yunnan's minority peoples made bright splashes of color among the blues and grays of the predominant Han. Yunnan, which means "south of the clouds," is a border province surrounded on the south and west by Vietnam, Laos, and Burma. It has 23 different national minor ities, with distinctive costumes, cultures, and languages. They frequently come to Kunming, the provincial capital, for mar keting or sight-seeing. We had not been in Kunming long before a joke was making the 797 privileges, including permis sion to hireforeignfaculty. With English now viewed as theget-aheadsecond tongue, my pupils included teachers of for eign languages (above), many of whom had formerly taught Russian. During a class break with his students(right),Paddy wins warm results with some local dialect he has learned to enrich his fluent Chinese.