It's a grey day, and it's been raining. The streets were just paved, then covered in thin plastic sheeting. Mud has clumped onto the plastic, and so we slip and slide our way down the roads, breathing with relief when the path turns to more reliable packed dirt or brick walkways. Joshua goes with RenYi, and me with Tony. Aside from being startled by dogs lunging to the end of their chains, and the occasional crazy goose, I enjoy exploring the village. If people are home, their doors are open, and we step inside shouting "is anyone home??" unlacing our boots and stepping in our socks onto clean cement floors.
Each yard is walled by lines of even "pickets" - skinny hewn tree trunks. There are always soldierly rows of seedlings, spaced exactly a foot apart. Sometimes chickens in various stages of disarray peck busily outside, sometimes the hulk of some tractor-like contraption stands proudly by the front door. Though the neighborhoods are orderly and compact, the homes are spacious. As evening draws in they begin to puff with the smoke of wood-burning stoves.
I like these people, though they find me curious. I say barely 10 words all afternoon and let Tony give the surveys. But I am watching them, and they watch me too. In fact, I see them staring at me sometimes to see if I am smiling or not. They give me their eyes even though I say nothing. I find this compelling somehow. There are few young people here. Except for someone's infant, the youngest person we see is 34.
At CGI U, a bright young man reminded the attendees that if we go to a different country, we must not judge. I believe this to be beyond true. If ever I feel my frustration rising during an interaction, I breathe deeply and remember those words. If I compared each person's house, or the way they treat their spouse (or even number of teeth!) to my own expectations.. I would stop seeing them. IF I thought only about the mud, or the rain, or the dog yelling at me from the side of the yard, I would tire quickly.
In the end, I don't think it's a question of patience, or of tolerance. It's an acceptance of difference, and an acknowledgement of fundamental similarity. We all want to have a better life tomorrow than we do today, we want to be heard, and we want to control how we we support ourselves.
When we bump home in the WCS SUV, Ren Yi takes the bumps ruthlessly, banging our heads against the roof. I laugh despite my tiredness. I thank both Tony and Ren Yi for their time today. We have many days of surveying left, and we will all be tired and temperamental by the end of it.
It's dark, damp and chilly now. I take my sponge bath, pad downstairs and steal some of Mel's rice for dinner. I'll read a book that I checked out from the Arlington Library eCollection, catch up on news. Eventually, sleep. My dreams of late have been furious and unnerving - running from a lava-like forest fire with high school and Nicholas School classmates, getting into a vicious fight with Clay, getting told off by my dance coaches, and searching through an endless house for a treasure I cannot recall. Tonight I hope for better.