Not Minor

longneck tribe adirozenzvi

Photo: Adi Rozen-Zvi

 

You hold on in the mountains

Where the way of life you had fled

To protect

Has become

Tied into tourists arriving:

Some to gawk

Others to try and learn a bit about

Your rich traditions,

The pain and pride,

The dignity and patient ways,

The complicated significance

Of who you are

And may wish to remain

And how it is bound into the realities

Of avenues still open to you

In a country where you are

Curios and assets,

As well as precious human beings

Full of life and memories,

And to me rare less in your numbers

Than in the profound window

You open into the uniqueness of

Each one of us

And the minority we are or can be

At any time

To some.

 

 

For the Friday Foto Fun challenge: Minorities

 

 

19 thoughts on “Not Minor

    • Thank you, my friend. It was a complicated experience for me. Being an ‘eco-tourism destination’ allows the Kayan People to be self-sustaining and continue their way of life. It also means they are routinely faced with people who come to view them as a curiosity and in a way trivialize a rich culture with many traditions and a history of pain and persecution (they fled Myanmar into Northern Thailand) as well as tenacity and identity … and make it into all being about the brass rings and how long and how many and how heavy and all that.
      We (my family and I and our guide) were the only ones visiting the village that day/time, and my favorite part was when my nephew (age 16) played impromptu soccer with a little dude from the village (age 4) who was absolutely delighted to have this tall lanky foreigner ‘big boy’ play with him. The women told us (through our interpreter guide) that there are very few boys his age in the village. His delight was obvious, and we all connected over the shared smiles of seeing his joy. He later joined us for some family photos. That was sweet and the human-to-human connection mattered most to me to see.

    • Yes, it was mixed bag kind of visit for me. And yet, I found their dignity and patience inspiring, and I am glad that they can self-sustain while also being able to maintain their culture and way of life this way. It is not simple, hence, the poem …
      Like I wrote in a response to another comment, we were the only visitors in the village that day/time, and it allowed a more intimate visit, perhaps, or at least, I felt that there was the possibility for it. What made the day for me was when my lanky 16 year old nephew patiently played ‘soccer’ with a 4 year old boy (with a kick like Pele’s!) who was absolutely delighted to have this ‘big boy’ be interested in him. The smiles we all shared, language barriers forgotten, were precious to me, because we were not tourists and props but just people delighting in a little boy’s delight. The little dude wanted to join our family photo (and got permission to from his) — cutie patootie grinning in it is a fun memento to have. We sent it to our guide, too, to send to the village if they wanted to have a copy. πŸ™‚

      • That is a wonderful story, Na’ama. Wow. To have the locals to yourselves must have felt like a privilege and the interaction between the boys is priceless.
        Wonderful all the way ’round.

      • I think our guide took us to that village because it was more remote and perhaps less ‘visited,’ or … we were just fortunate. I think I’d have cringed if it were some tourist-bus-disembarking-to-see-the-living-props event … But as it turned out for us, we strolled through the village, marveled at the amazing huts (they were repairing one, with bamboo and not much else while we were there–going about their business), at the woman who was at her loom, the day-to-day-stuff that went on at the same time that some of the women came to ‘show and tell’ us a bit about their lives. We also bought some knick-knacks (they sell the same souvenirs one can get in Chiang Mai’s market, and for a bit more money besides, but it sustains them and it translates into very little money for us and all the difference to them, so we bought trinkets and bracelets and bangles and ‘bring-mes’), and mostly laughed at the kids playing and the exchange between my nephew and the little boy (the latter was rather disappointed that we weren’t leaving his new playmate behind …) πŸ˜‰

  1. Great post, you really nailed the ‘minority’ bit and how their traditions then become a curiosity …. I have met a group of Tibetan tribal women whose huge gold sleepers had pulled their ears lobes down past their shoulders. They had huge chunks of coral and turquoise around their necks yet their brown dresses were more uniform like. No translator to communicate but there was lots of smiling and watching πŸ™‚

    • πŸ™‚ How interesting! I would have been happy to learn more about the mountain villagers and their traditions and way of life and to get to know them a little. It is always difficult when traveling in places where one needs a guide (you cannot just show up at the village without one, I believe), to truly spend time understanding each other, but hopefully our visit was respectful of them and their space and their traditions.

      • I’m sure it would have been …

        no I used to trek the Himalayas, and lived there, so when you meet these traders hiking you don’t have a guide or translator … but apparently the government now insists that you take a guide for trekking .. very sad!

      • I think it is a little sad but also a little practical, in some ways? Not so much for people who’d lived there, as you had, but for fly-by-hikers who – as my family members had seen around the world – do not always respect custom (or try to find out what the custom is)? Not sure what the best solution is, only that I can understand also the insistence on guides. At least in rural (and ecologically and culturally vulnerable) areas. What do you think?

      • oh no there are some real insensitive people out there and some go off their MH meds when they travel and cause all types of trouble so I do get it … just very glad I did it in the good old unspoilt days πŸ™‚

Feedback welcome! Please leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s