Day 3: Wadi crossings

The Dalai Lama, when asked what surprised him most about humanity, answered “Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.
— The Dalai Lama

Conceptually, seeing how people live simply sounds quite appealing. What would it be like to shed away societal structure as we know it? What would it be like to only have what you *really* need? What is the core essence that necessitate life? There is no bathroom here. Not in the villages. There is no light beyond the sun and fire. There is no heat. No TV. No blankets. No living room / bed room / wardrobes. There are no chairs. Money is nice to have but not critical to live for. Material possessions: pots, tea cups, trays, machete, sleeping cot, ropes, one or two pieces of clothing. A few items come and go with monetary trades. Most others (food, etc) come by through direct trade (ie. I will trade my goat for your rice). Religion blurs into culture. Rock huts, rivers, and wide open space occupied life. Stars occupied life. Relationship and family occupied life. At some point the things you carry on your back -- your most basic needs (or so you thought before you showed up) -- feels frivolous. At some point you begin to wonder what you really need back at home. Or even, what you really need at all. 


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We set foot well after sunrise -- a lazy start by most camping trip standard. I can't say I had a good sleep. My feet are not used to walking this much in this kind of terrain. I felt spoiled and delicate compare to the locals who walk around all day in flip flops without a care. We made our way down the valley (much harder than walking up, it turns out). Met our cameleer Isia's cousin at his house. He showed us a goat skin contraption used to store milk (and later on we saw someone else making cheese with it). I forgot his name - Isia's cousin. He has about 10-15 beehives in his little garden. We went in to see him smoke the bees to get the honey. Four of us got stung -- myself included in the leg. It wasn't that bad actually. Isia got it worst in the lip. One went through Jo's glasses and nailed her forehead. JM's sting was in the armpit. Who knows how it got there. All was worth it tho because revenge sure taste better than honey. It was probably the best honey I've ever tasted. There is something to be said about honey that came straight from the hive. In the garden were also veggies and other small scale farming. 

I learned that you can't grow veggies to sell on the island even though the land is quite fertile. The island became a part of UNESCO site in 2008. As a part of that you can't bring in plants and animals that are not native to the island. This seems a bit troubling. It means unless you're growing your own little garden of veggies you are required to pay for import food. I suppose the point is to preserve the island. The only local trade you can do is date farming, honey farming, goat and livestock, fishing, and tourism. And of course merchant trades. We bid the cousin goodbye shortly after Nikki interviewed him for her article. Along the valley stream we saw a bunch of livestock. One cow just had a baby merely minutes ago. The calf's head is still slimy. It was trying to get up to suck on mom' udder. Nature doing its thing. Seeing it reminded me of a hilarious TEDTalk about how complicated it is to make something so seemingly simple (like a toaster). Here, life is in-your-face simple. You're as close to your food source as it gets. You're also as close to understanding true concept of needs versus wants as it gets.

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The French got split up from the rest of the group most of the morning. We eventually all met up at a little village near this beautiful wadi for lunch. The locals were especially curious about us. They gathered nearby with fascination. Philip mentioned they probably see 2-3 tourists at most per year .. If that. After lunch a handful of us went for a quick dip in the wadi. Local boys all came to watch Jo and I change into our bathing suits and swim in the water as if it's the year's must-see live show. It was quite uncomfortable actually. I suppose time slipped by too fast at the wadi because the after lunch trek became more like a race against sunset. We lost. Jo had a bit of a difficult time criss-crossing the wadis on unstable rocks so JM and I hung back to help her. By now we've probably crossed about 20 of them. Before long we lost our pack. Only shortly before last light did we spot Isia waiting for us further down. 

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Night falls fast around here. When you don't have light pollution things get really really dark. Thank goodness JM and I both packed our torches. We noticed Isia didn't have a torch. A part of me began to question my dependency on man made light source. I wonder if I had just let it go or if we didn't pack one our eyes would just simply adjust to the darkness fine. Isia led us well over 30 minutes trekking in almost pitch dark through some seriously rocky terrain. It took so long to get to camp that I began to wonder if he's leading us elsewhere instead. The mind takes you to interesting places when fear creeps in. What if he's walking us into an Al Qaeda barn with AKs and film crew (like in the movies). What if he's also lost. Lots of what ifs filled the air until, alas, camp reached. A nice dinner under the stars commenced once we managed to stumble around pitching our tent and even got to hang some wet clothes.

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By now I am fully unaware of the outside world, let alone what day of the week it is. It's a great feeling -- this perpetual sense of presence. I don't know how else to acquire it other than completely plunging in to a pool of unknown in a place far, far away. No past. No future. For someone like me whose work asks to be a futurist all the time, this very moment feels utterly magical. Breathing the air. Touching the wild flowers. Feeling cold stream running through my toes. Watching shooting stars. Moving. Being vulnerable to the elements of nature. Finding the thread that connects all of us who care enough to be here to share this experience together. All of this makes me immensely grateful.  (Now if only I could capture the stars in the sky)