Truth moment, I don’t live in a village in Asia. I live in a city, a pretty modern city with shopping malls and movie theaters. I can get McDonald’s delivered to my house at 11pm. I can get Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts on the regular. I drive on paved roads which are regulated by traffic signals. Asia is pretty modern, ya’ll. That being said, I have to tell you about my trip to the village earlier this year. It was, well, an adventure.
It started back in July, when there was a few Hindu holidays in a row. We’ve been hanging out with some families that beg on the streets downtown [more on that later] for awhile now, and we knew they regularly go back to their home village for these holidays. We’d been so curious to see where they were from. And we just happened to get an invite during these July holidays. So 6 of us packed up our motorbikes for a 5 hour trek up a volcano and into a village.
About 3 hours into this journey, we left paved roads and began a winding path to these villages. Wanna know what’s tough? Driving a 150cc city motorbike up a sandy path littered with rocks and potholes at about a 45 degree incline. I fell. He fell. We all fell. It was a dirty, dirty ride. But, alas, we made it to the top. And what a view.
This family, who’s daughter-in-law and 3 kids beg in the modern inner city, lives on the side of the volcano. It last erupted 40-50 years ago, basically eliminating most hope for farmland and vegetation. They are so high, that they can’t even dig a well for fresh water. They use a cistern to collect rain water for half the year during the rainy season. The rest of the year…they just ration it. And now 6 extra people were coming to stay on their land and use their precious water. Gulp. We did pick up supplies down the mountain at the market, so we came prepared with drinking water, rice, veggies and chickens [alive] for our meals over the weekend. As we strung up our hammocks overlooking the ridge, I knew this was not going to be an easy weekend.
I think I’ve realized that I’m a village girl in theory, but not so much in reality. I think it sounds dreamy to be secluded at the edge of civilization sleeping in a hammock and killing the chicken you’re about to eat for dinner. Reality – not dreamy. I love to eat chicken, but a little less now that I’ve seen it slaughtered in front of me. Hammocks are not super comfortable for all night sleep, maybe just a nap. And guess what, when you climb a volcano for an hour and the elevation increases, it gets FREEZING at night. I was so unprepared. And filthy. And sore. And hungry. And tired. And I didn’t even get to the “best part”.
So grandpa might be some kind of Hindu priest. Or just really devoted. Or really excited that non-Asians were staying on his property for the first time. I don’t know. But what I do know is that at 5am, before even the sun was smart enough to get up, grandpa is up playing Hindu chants over his loudspeaker for all the valley to hear…for an hour. And then, he releases his Hindu Birds [I doubt that’s what they are called, but they were part of this thing, so Hindu Birds] for their morning flight and calls them home by banging repetitively on a piece of metal and shouting. Did I mention this is before sunrise!? Once the chanting finishes, and the birds are home and it’s almost 7am, I realize that sleep has eluded me for the day, I climb/fall out of my hammock and bleary-eyed find the “toilet”. I’m so used to Asian village toilets that I almost forget to include a mention. It’s hole, in the ground, with some concrete around it, that you squat over. Ah yes, the squatty potty.
We ended up leaving the village early because my old tired bones/emotions couldn’t handle much more and because the family had head back to the city early. I’ve never been so excited for a bed and a shower in my life.
This village trip was both a highlight and a lowlight for the year for me. It was HARD. But I’m glad we went. But I’m not ready to go back.