Or, the thing we have missed out on all along.
Several days ago contracts got sent out at Mark's work- we need to decide if we're staying or leaving. Well, we know we are staying- but we haven't decided if we will sign on for another two years, or just one (and then play it by ear).
And- there's lots to be said about all of that (and rest assured I've probably said it all to Mark about 5,000 times). There are hundreds of ways that living here is such a blessing, I honestly think that if we were to make a pros/ cons list that the pros would far outweigh the cons. But today, I had this memory of this experience we had in Burma a few Christmas' ago (another pro- getting to travel!) and it reminds me of something we are missing here.
I'd never done any multi-day hikes, so we signed up for a trek from Kalaw (a small wonderful village) down to Inle Lake. It was a three day, two night endeavor, and it is hands down my favorite thing we've ever done. Our whole holiday in Burma was perfect, and the trek was just icing on the cake.
Travelling in Burma (at least 4 years ago) required more planning than travel elsewhere in this region. I'd poured over guidebooks and blogs and it all said pretty much the same thing- tourism is relatively new, so book in advance as it's not uncommon to show up in a town and find every hotel fully booked. There was (is?) also really specific rules about money- what kinds of bills that were accepted (US dollars), what condition the bills were in (pristine- we're talking no folds or creases) and certain dates of currency were deemed unusable. I'm not going to lie, planning the trip was kind of intense and definitely brought out my worst anxiety-ridden, anal planning side.
But- I guess this is the beginning of when you could say I started to chill out about travel, because I'd read somewhere that the best trekking company couldn't be booked ahead of time, and it was best to just walk into "such and such" restaurant and ask for "such and such" person and try to get in on the next trek. I was incredibly tickled when it turned out to be just as easy as that. We found ourselves (freezing cold) at the local restaurant signing up for a trek to leave the next day. We made some friends while we sat and chatted and we all agreed to sign on for the same trek.
The next morning when we left there were 6 of us tourists (us, the two guys we'd met the day before, and an older married Israeli couple). Our guide was named Zaw and he had the biggest smile, whitest teeth, lightest laugh, biggest skip in his step of anyone you ever met. His joy and delight and wonder still cause me to pause.
He literally laughed and sang and ran and jumped and talked and joked us over the hills and through the villages for hours upon hours. I instantly adored him.
Often while we walked he would point things out to us- what crop/plant/flower was growing. He chatted about Burmese culture and politics, he talked of his family and ambitions.
He stopped at one point to show us a spider's web. We sat and stared at it for minutes. I honestly have never done that before. He gingerly took the spider from the web and asked us to pull the webbing from it. He quizzed us, wanting to know if we knew how long the webbing is. By this point in the trip we had long learned that these hills were Zaw's backyard- that he was the teacher and we were the pupils-so we waited for him to tell us. I can still hear his delighted, laughter-filled exclamation- "I already spent an entire day pulling it and it NEVER ends".
Maybe you had to be there. Or maybe it's really not that momentous. But he totally meant it when he said he sat with a spider held delicately in his hand while he curiously pulled out the webbing. for an entire day. You could just see it, because he spoke of the crops and the flowers and the seasons and the people and the animals with the same kind of reverent knowledge. Because he walked through the land with an authority and a respect that made me wonder if maybe I'd gotten it all wrong and maybe we should leave it all and move to one of those village towns.
And days like today, when I'm wondering how long it is we might stay in this concrete jungle, I hear the call of Zaw and those villages and all the different spiders of which I've never learned of their webs.