Our five hour trek from Kalaw to Sinleh Village was at first daunting to our group, but a few hours into our hike we were confident enough to take some time to trek alone. I kept myself present by focusing on my five senses around me. I smelt a sticky, warm sweetness of the abundance of nature surrounding me. I tasted the sooty smoke drifting up from the villages below. I ran my hand through the tall grass, touching the sharp blades lightly. I saw a view so blindingly gorgeous, days later I am still lost for words. We refer to Myanmar as the Golden Land, but after this hike I’m sure we should rename it the Green Land.
I had been paired with Sarah, and upon our arrival in our homestay we were immediately welcomed with open arms and warm smiles. We were showered with rice and vegetable dishes, and as we ate, we could feel their eyes studying us with great fascination. Although the language barrier makes it hard to communicate verbally, their feelings of love and generosity were easily understood through their actions.
In the first week here I’ve gotten used to our daily routine: Every morning I wake up looking forward to Amay (mother) version of coffee, which is really just warm sweetened milk, along with crackers on the side, all before breakfast is served.
But life here isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Every morning at 6 am sharp, we are woken up by our baby host brother’s crying. We roll out of our mosquito net to fold away our mats and blankets keeping the communal room tidy. Morning showers are always a struggle, as our only option is to take open bucket showers dressed in our traditional Longyi’s. I may not know how to use a laundry machine at home, but now I am an expert at hand washing! Oh, and the bathroom which we refer to as the “squatty potty”, is about 100 yards away from our home. Throughout the day we also help Amay (mother) prepare meals and clean every dish afterwards.
Living in Sinleh Village in Shan State, Myanmar has been very different from what I am used to at home. My parents have provided my two brothers and I a lot of comforts, taking care of all the daily tasks that the household of five people contributes to here. Chores weren’t always expected of my siblings and I. At home I’ve grown so accustomed to my privileges that I hardly even noticed them. This experience in such a short amount of time has opened my eyes to so much. I can’t even fathom the amount of gratitude and respect I have for my Mom and Dad. I’m so excited to bring home the lessons I’ve learned of independence. I want to wash the dishes. I want to clean the house. I want to help cook dinner, but most of all I want to tell my parents thank you and I love you.