Culture Shock: Observations in Shenkuu
Greetings once more, Neopia. Calling your attention is Emilairon the speckled Shoyru. Perhaps you might recall my previous article, “Culture Shock: Observations in Altador”, in which I began my journey across Neopia with the desire to observe and record the different cultures and societies I find. My journey now continues, and with my crew and my ship, the Light’s Silence, I set my sails northward to the infamous land of Shenkuu.
Shenkuu is one of the newer Neopian lands, having been discovered in the wake of the ship the Cyodrake’s Gaze. It has become a highly popular land of Neopians, causing many people to consider its culture and its people. I shall not, therefore, be so base as to declare that I am the first to write of Shenkuu, but I do hope that my observations will be duly noted amongst Neopia, and perhaps offer some new insights as to the land’s fascinating society.
When I arrived in Shenkuu, I was keen on making my observations of the city. So, notebook in one hand, pen in another, I set out. I had not gone five paces, however, before I heard a call behind me. Turning, I saw a young plushie Kyrii running towards me.
“Are you Emilairon?” the Kyrii inquired, button eyes wide.
I have to admit I was impressed. My article about Altador was, at that time, only newly published. I had not expected people to already begin to recognize me. “Yes, I am,” I replied. “What is your name?”
“I’m Alissya,” the Kyrii said eagerly. “Are you here to take a look at Shenkuu?”
I had to chuckle. “Why, yes, I am.”
Alissya could hardly keep still, she was so excited! “Would you... would you like me to show you around, Mr. Emilairon?” she asked. I could tell that she wanted very dearly for me to say yes. How could I possibly refuse such a sweet girl? I, of course, accepted the offer. What better way to learn of a land than through its natives?
Throughout our entire tour and interview, it was obvious that Alissya loved her hometown very much. “The weather patterns make no day like the one before it,” she explained. The day I docked in at Shenkuu was incredibly sunny, with almost no fog. Colors were bleached in the bright sunlight, and the air was light, with a slight breeze. The next day, however, was almost entirely the opposite. Fog banks lay over every hill and mountain, and the sun was a weak whisper from behind the clouds. It was so chilly that I bundled myself up, just as the fog bundled the lush hills of the land.
Alissya had a laugh at my trepidation of the rope-and-plank bridges that connect the hills of Shenkuu. “Bridges have connected Shenkuu for time out of mind,” my guide explained.
“The time thing is what bothers me,” I commented, still hesitating.
Alissya had another laugh at my expense. “Don’t worry! These bridges are kept in tip-top shape,” she said proudly, head held high. “We’d be in big trouble if these things gave out or became dangerous, so we make sure to take good care of them and replace them when we have to.”
At this, I gained an instant respect in the meticulousness of Shenkuu, which is echoed everywhere in the land. The cottages are neat and the city is clean. Shenkuuans are not afraid of work, that is for certain, and take great pride in their crafts and their fine skill in all areas.
However, do not believe that this pride is a folly of the people. The longer I remained in the mountain city, the more I discovered the very heart of Shenkuu. Like Altador, my fine home, Shenkuu is the seat of many a great scholar and craftsman, but unlike my beloved home, it is not luxurious and grand. There are no tall, proud pillars, no fine marble streets. Instead, Shenkuu is a place of great humility, of reflection. Time very nearly appears to cease within its village. Its people are gracious, polite, and learned. I cite, for an example, the Shenkuu Lunar Temple, where the kindly old Gnorbu is as wise in the ways of life as he is intelligent in the ways of the heavens.
Even Alissya, talking of Shenkuu almost nonstop (answering my inquiries and then some), did not have any arrogance or wanton conceit. She was quiet, and though youthful, I could sense a certain wisdom from her that must be part of the very earth and air of Shenkuu.
To further my musings of this matter, I asked Alissya if she would show me some of the shops of Shenkuu. Having found that shops often reflect the heart and soul of a land, as they do in Altador, I decided it would be wise to observe Shenkuu’s market as well.
“Why don’t we visit Wondrous Weaponry first?” Alissya suggested, motioning across yet another bridge. (Despite her reassurances, I was never able to become quite comfortable with crossing the Shenkuu bridges. Even thinking of them now makes me feel slightly anxious.)
Upon entering the Shenkuu weapon shop, I beheld some of the finest armaments I have seen in all my travels. All of the Wondrous Weaponry’s items are finely crafted, smooth, and graceful instruments, from the Wooden Practice Staff to the Golden Handled Long Sword. With my slight knowledge of weapon lore, I myself held the Gold Handled Katana, which caught my eye, and found the weapon to be perfectly balanced, responding to the slightest command of my fingers as if it could sense my actions.
Could one take the fine objects of Wondrous Weaponry as, perhaps, a metaphor for the people of Shenkuu? Like the weapons, the people are balanced in mind and body; they are beautiful, but simple, humble, but wise and knowledgeable. I could quite easily speak of this subject alone, but I shall move on, dear reader, and continue my account of my observations.
Toward late afternoon, I began to feel extremely hungry. Let me tell you, dear reader, that drinking in the soul of a land, while satisfying to the mind, can create quite an appetite for tangible nourishment! Alissya was only too happy to steer me to the next destination, the food shop Exotic Foods. I wrote in my last article – and I still firmly believe this – that the best way to come to know a culture is through its diet. When tasting the foods of Shenkuu, one word continually came to my mind: simple. And please, dear reader, do not take this as rudeness on my part, for I mean “simple” in the best possible way.
Exotic Foods boasts such dishes as starberry satay, artichoke dumplings, bamboo tea, and purplum buns. The foods are incredibly simplistic, yet linger on the tongue and the mind long after consumption. With no excess of fatty ingredients or heavy flavors, the goods of Exotic Foods leave one feeling satisfied and content. Simple though the foods are, it is obvious that much love and pride goes into each and every dish, yet another reflection of the kind Shenkuu people.
Now that I have addressed some of the sites and foods of Shenkuu, I shall turn my pen to, as I did in my article on Altador, the people of Shenkuu, its Neopets and its people. As I surmised by observing the city, Shenkuu’s citizens are a kindly lot. They are quiet and peaceful, with a certain charity that I have not seen in other cultures. The doors of Shenkuu’s cottages are always open to visitors; the Neopets and people themselves are always willing to call a “hello” to all they meet, and are eager to speak of the goings-on in daily life. I feel I have never dwelt in a safer or more serene land.
These observations I made from the shopkeepers I met and, above all, Alissya. For such a young Kyrii, she showed a steadiness that I would like to instill in some of my crew on the Light’s Silence. (Ha-ha, no, they are a good crew! I merely tease.) But she was quick to smile, quick to laugh, and always eager in the best possible way. I certainly learned more from her tour of Shenkuu than I would have had I merely traveled by myself.
When it was time for me to take my leave, Alissya grew very sad. “Are you going to visit again soon?” she asked anxiously, her ears drooping.
“As soon as my travels across Neopia are done,” I assured her as we shared a last hug. As we docked off, I waved to her until the last, when the clouds that surround the quiet hills of that tranquil land swallowed her from my view.
It was with a heavy heart that I left the fog-enshrined mountains of Shenkuu and its people. I shall greatly miss some of the acquaintances I made, and I will always think fondly of the memories created there. However, the sea beckons me to my journey and my next destination. There are still yet more Neopian cultures to be observed, and I have promised to view them all with my own eyes and my own pen. However, I know that I shall eventually, one day, return to the peaceful land in the hills, Shenkuu, and that I shall be welcomed with open arms.