The Buffalo Boy.

We woke up to foggy mystical skies. Life starts early in the Hmong villages in the north. It didn’t take us long to realize we were no longer in the “Land Of The Morning Calm.” Life in Vietnam, particularly here in the north, starts early. I’m talking 4am early!

By the time we crept out of bed it was already 7am and the grandmother of the household we were staying at had already been awake for hours. She was this tiny lady who just never stopped moving. It wasn’t long before we set out along our way for day two of our trek. The fog made for this magical walk as we spent the morning walking through it. We weaved in and out of the terraced rice fields and all of a sudden you would hear the faint sound of a cow bell in the distance. It would come closer and closer and as I looked around (even though the sound of the ringing cow bell was quite loud) I still couldn’t see anything yet. Finally, just at about an arms reach, a small boy and his mother came into the clearing. They were guiding their water buffalo back home. Water Buffalo trudging along as they hauled a heavy load of wood from the forest. This wood would later be used in the adobe style indoor oven to fuel the fire for dinner.

It was just about this same time we encountered the only person we had seen for many kilometers. This tiny human left me thinking about him weeks later. He was dressed in a blue coat, blue jeans, and flip flops. He was sitting by a fire that was more smoke than fire. He sat in the grass beside the fire just observing us. He didn’t seem scared, but rather just observing us. Our guide walked over to him as Tom and I followed. The three of us sat there with him. I could feel my heart just being pulled on. Chu-in (our guide) began speaking to him and we learned he was six years old. His job was to lead these massive water buffalo out to the fields to graze and bring them safely back home. Tom worked on making the fire a bit warmer for him. We learned he built the fire himself to keep warm. We emptied our bag of all our food to pass along to him. He was the sweetest little boy. He didn’t have a single toy or book out there with him he just sat there, alone, watching the buffalo.I kept glancing around for an adult and no one was in sight.

Later, his mother came along- I think quite some time had passed since we had arrived- but she was working the fields & came back to check in on him. We chatted with her for awhile. Chu-in speaking Vietnamese to the buffalo boy- the boy translating Vietnamese to the Hmong language back to him mom. I could tell she loved her son. We chatted for a bit more before we departed. Her eating her grasshoppers she had collected and us eating the bread/Vietnamese hot dogs.

I wonder what the future holds for this boy. I know it will probably look a lot different than my future and that’s okay. The buffalo boy changed me. I loved him instantly. He had the sweetest eyes and a very important job looking over the family’s most prized possessions. Sometimes, I don’t think words are necessary to communicate. When you want to show someone love- you don’t always need the words. I don’t necessarily think he was unhappy. It didn’t feel right that I could feel “more fortunate” or that he was “less fortunate.” Traveling does that to you, you know? It shows you that what you’ve known isn’t necessarily always best. It shows you that love is universal. That pain doesn’t have to be felt to be understood. That your way isn’t always the best way. It changes you.

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the buffalo boy.

the buffalo boy.

The Beauty of Life. A Boat Journey -Philippines Style.

Sitting on a boat and it’s sticky hot. The motor is right beneath my feet. What separates us is what appears to be just a thin rickety layer of metal. The boat is packed (like a can of sardines) full of people. This rickety boat is a small one, that I’m almost positive, has been pieced together from recycled parts.

We begin our journey- just an hour’s ride this trip. It’s not long before the boat begins to sway and water seeps in through the slots that represent windows along the side. The people next to me quickly pull up these wooden slats that act as a makeshift shield preventing the passengers from getting soaked by the waves. Quickly the temperature rises while sweat droplets suddenly pool on our bodies. We are instructed to sit only inside the boat’s lower level where we must stay seated and I try to continue reading, but have to take a break because I begin to feel queasy.

My mind begins to wander as I close my eyes trying to relax in the heat & confined small space. I’m sitting next to  a very old lady with plenty of wrinkles decorating her skin. She’s speaking Tagalog to a younger version of herself sitting behind us ,and I assume it’s her daughter. She has dark chocolate brown eyes with matching brown skin. I just know she’s lived a long life. I wonder what her story is. Where has she been? What led her here today? She catches me glancing at her as we exchange smiles. I want to talk to her, but I also am concentrating hard to stay calm as my stomach is doing flips inside of me. I wonder where she’s headed today? I think about the beauty in each person’s life story. The joy, the pain, and the journey we each take. Each day an important one. Though, often the every day moments in life are forgotten…it’s each of these moments that make life so special.

The small port city of Dumaguete (in the Philippines) is a refreshing break from Korea’s technology craze. People around me use their old flip style phone. You know, the Nokia look-alike ones (top up/ pay as you go phones) to text their people. It’s quite the change from seeing everyone glued to their smartphone. Often, admittedly, myself included.

People doze asleep while I wonder how exactly they fall asleep so easily with the loud rumbling sound of the motor below and the squealing of parts just below my feet that continue propelling the boat forward.  Before long the hum of the motor makes my own eyes heavy as, I too, begin to drift off. It isn’t long before the “windows” are down and I can see land again. The sun is out and I see long white strips of stunning sand along the shore that is waiting to be explored. The water goes from deep sapphire blue to gorgeous aquamarine & mysterious mystical Siquijor island is just beckoning for our discovery.

–It’s moments like this I wish we could freeze forever in our mind. Ya know what I mean?

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A month from today we’re headed to…

Hi everyone!

I’ve been a bit MIA as of lately. It’s been busy over here with teaching as we are in the final stretch before summer vacation!!!!  The Korean school year is broken into two semesters. Semester one starts in March & goes until the end of July. Semester two runs from September to end of December. Next week my students have finals for this semester & I’ll be wrapping up my online distance learning classes. It’s nuts to me that July is already here. Without all the 4th of July decorations for sale (like it is in America) we often forget when the holiday’s are upon us. The 4th of July, for Tom and I, is usually spent in Minnesota at my dad’s house. We fish, we boat, water ski, go tubing, eat amazing food, watch the 4th of July parade, and best of all have TONS of crazy fireworks once the sun goes down. The 4th of July is my absolute favorite holiday of the year because I LOVE being on the lake with my family, and I love fireworks. It’s low stress, laid back, and it means summer is officially in full swing.

It’s hard to believe that our second year of teaching is just about 1/2 over & while it’s definitely hard to be away from family during the holiday’s we have a very exciting trip to look forward to.

 

In just 4 weeks we are headed to…

…The Philippines!!!! (Photo Source)

 

We plan on doing a few different places in the Philippines. Also, as an added bonus: we get to celebrate our 2nd anniversary there as it fell during our vacation time! We are SO excited to explore, learn, and be immersed in another culture.

Have you been to the Philippines before?

What is your favorite holiday?