Tuesday, September 13, 2005

" as if you have never been on a hike ever "


seedart trek to the upper mountainous jungle region above chiang rai: part 2

you awake to the sounds of childen running around outside and roosters announcing to the world that they are alive, the sun might be up, and the day is upon the wide world. breakfast is at the ready, and while eating, you make the observation that food here is not to be wasted; if you are hungry, consume as much as you want/need. this is life simplified based on necessity and sustenance, rather than leisure or preference.

you're preparing the camera equipment for the first "day of school." the project is getting started, and you don't know quite what to expect. it seems, as we pack the bags and prepare materials, that we're going to have a good time with this.

you're "walking" to the school. the hill slope has turned into a downward road into a wooden pole-bridge across a flowing river chasm into a cloven earthen first road made into mud by the rains flanked by the lushness of nature into one of the most unforgiving mountainsides you have ever had to climb.

your eyes are pulsating with an odd sensation and you feel as if you never quite experienced this raw level of natural green before. you almost feel as if you are blinded by nature, and it's sheer vibrancy drives you onward and upwards.

you're struggling up the last few man-made dirt steps to the base of the school. all of the school-children in the lower-level outdoor classroom look at you as if you are some strange animal about to keel over and die at their dusty feet. you take a moment to soak in the beautifully rural view from the top of the mountain, as seemingly all of the water content trickles out from every single pore in your pathetic body. it feels refreshingly great.

you're trying to use every available linguistic ability in your brain to make sense of the basic elements and concepts of photography to hill-tribe children, as they stare onward and through your thin veil of confidence. they see that you have laid everything on the proverbial table, and they know that for some strange reason, the fear you have in the back of your head, has now had the chance to present itself, allowing it in its entirety to be completely exploited. you're thinking to yourself that these pre-teens have got some nerve, but that since that's mostly all they actually have, you allow yourself to be the clown.

you're walking back down the mountain back to the village. the breeze helps to keep the heat off of your over-heated body. the air is fresh and clean, and smells of a deep jungle forest. the deep winds heave unto the hillside from across and through a vast thick valley, which meanders through the landscape. soon you're back down on the path and it seems that if you can have this walk every day back to the village, it'll all be okay.


Tuesday, September 06, 2005

" the air up in the 'there' you've never been to "


seedart trek to the upper mountainous jungle region above chiang rai: part 1

you're sitting on a plane with a new book in your hand. the pressurization has just gotten to your brain, and concentration is getting difficult. to your left, a new contact is sleeping the hour-long or so flight away, having invited you to participate in a very cool important project, resting away for the things to come.

you're getting an over priced taxi from the chiang mai airport to the overbrook hospital. you're going to meet doctor david, a man that for all intents and purposes, will be your guide through the whateverness of unknown trails and peoples yet to manifest. he looks like a hiker, a camping trekker, a man with the sort of boots that signifies he walks a great deal over great distances constantly and often.

you're sitting in the roadside meetingpoint/restaurant of the hill-tribe villagers, whenever they make it into town; there is a governmental restriction upon the actual entering of these 'illegals' into the city limits, but they are allowed to sit, eat, converge, meet, and peer into what the 'privileged life' might possibly look like.

you're walking at top speed, as if there were no time left in the day, through the local produce/goods market buying things like eggs, vegetables, tubers, ponchos, mosquito nets, and medicines. there is absolutely no catching up to doctor david, as his pace is that of a massive steam engine train chock full of coal. every few seconds he disappears around some corner, leaving only the wincing smile of an old toothless lady selling cucumbers arranged neatly in a pile.
you're on the back of a truck headed for somewhere. the wind smells fresh and clean, completely unlike the "air" in bangkokia. the winds of change, one might say. looking around, there are many faces that seem as if they might be familiar ones; the faces of workers, the faces of old hill-tribe grandmothers with their blackened teeth and red tongues from chewing too much betelnut, the faces of young couples with a baby; the teen-aged husband not really ready to be a father as he smokes a cigarette over the edge of the back of the truck, one leg dangling near to the bumper. all these faces surround you, as the wind pulls our collective hair up and back. the road nears to separate destinations, and these people start to disappear as if you never saw them.

you're getting off of a long-tail traditional boat; the motor supplied from the hollowed out truck engine, refitted for aquatic transportation rather than the road. the last three hours were spent at a hill-tribe school on the other side of the river; the side of the river attached to the road back to civilization. you and your three companions waited three hours for the boat. it was hot and long and boring (excepting the interaction between camera-photo taking and the smiling constantly amused children), and it seems that in all of the discomfort of waiting, there are some people here that have done this every week of their lives.

you're on a second truck. the road has turned to that of dirt and mud and river shallows and tall grasses and deep cloven slits in the earth. the branches from bamboo shoots arc over the road in defiance of man's divination through them, and they thrash the faces and backs of unwary passengers sitting in the back of the truck; multiple unexpected lashing from a nature too old to move out of man's way.

you are sitting in a Lahu village eating dinner. a simple meal of rice and vegetables and cooked meat. you forget for a moment that the reason you are here is to interact, document, teach photography, and observe the means of education that these villagers' children can be provided with a basic sense of elementary and secondary education. the small sound of the rush of bodies in anticipation of food accompanies the thoughts of making it to the village finally after five hours of transit. again, the thought that these people have to do this every week comes to mind, and you humble yourself before the hot meal, happy to have made it to the location of something very very real.