what do you want?

‘I want everything,’ she replied with a faint, wry smile. ‘You know, I said that once, to a friend of mine, and he told me that the real trick in life is to want nothing, and to succeed in getting it.’

It is shockingly comforting to lie beneath a mosquito net, almost as if I am finally living out my childhood dream of owning a canopy bed.

Beyond its breezy screen I have very little protection and the effects of living with more children and dogs and cats and ducks and chickens than I can count waft over the open concrete walls of my small room.

I am at a makeshift orphanage in a tiny village within walking distance of the Burmese border, and when I climbed off of the motorcycle taxi yesterday morning at 6AM with directions to just walk blindly to the ramshackle house in the middle of a field, I wasn’t sure how I would adjust to this lifestyle.

Let’s be honest: before this trip I wasn’t exactly a nature and animals girl, and yet somehow I’ve quickly become immune to the flies and surprisingly fond of the flea-ridden dogs and cats. I’m no longer bothered by the prospect of a cold shower through a hose, I’m getting better with a squat toilet, and chasing the ducks and puppies out of the kitchen has become routine. When we found out that ants got into this morning’s bread, I ate it anyway along with everyone else—it couldn’t have be much different than the fried crickets and scorpions that people pay a premium for on the streets of Bangkok.

And the children—about a dozen Burmese orphans under the age of 12—are extraordinary. They are incredibly self-sufficient and strong but also trusting and friendly. Within a few hours they were crawling all over me, but even the youngest knows better than to ask you to find his socks or put her to bed. They play for hours outside, without shoes or electronics or complaints. Their laughter and singing is loud and pure, but so is their crying, which—keeping in line with Burmese culture—is almost never addressed by an adult. Most have a disability of some kind, but they speak English, Thai, AND Burmese and are extremely quick to pick up the rules of new games. And they are kind, sharing with one another and with me, even when they have so little.

I want to raise my future children to be like them, but I wonder if it’s even possible in a more western society. Maybe we traded this type of natural curiosity and learning for rules and safety. Maybe I won’t want my children to feel so comfortable around dirt and garbage, to have calloused feet and open cuts, to tear their clothes and solve their arguments with fists and shouts. And I’m not sure if I’d be strong enough to watch my children sob without immediately scooping them up to be comforted.

But it’s definitely given me a new perspective on the consequences of privilege and the real definition of necessity… and I’ve got time to figure the rest of it out.

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