I’ve expressed this in several blog items but it goes without saying how much my guides influence my experiences abroad. They fill my mind, touch my heart and seal my soul with each story. They are simply living and I am participating in a snippet of their lives. I attempt to deliver for them a slice of mine but I often walk the line between wanting to share everything and hesitating about what’s really important for them to know about my country, my city, me. I ponder this often. Is it that I pay $3k+ to live in NYC; that I work in political fundraising; that I am single; that I really don’t own a car?
Meet Augie. He is 30-years old, married with a 3-month old baby boy and should be much more than a tour guide. He has spirit and whit and laughs for the sake of laughing. At age 12, his mother announced he would attend the monastery. It is very common in Buddhist families to send one of their boys to a monastery. It’s a source of pride. In the weeks prior to his departure, the entire village bestowed praise on Augie. He participated in a special ceremony, he marched around from family to family and the village crowned him a prince of sorts. The family beamed with joy at his good fortune. Many families send their young sons to monasteries at a much younger age around 5 or 6 because they cannot provide for them but Augie’s mother, who I gather makes all the decisions, wanted to pay respect to Buddha.
At the monastery, Augie shaved his head, awoke at 3:30 AM, walked the local village for alms at 9:00 AM, prayed, meditated, studied and ate his last meal at noon. Augie is creative. He is resourceful. He is entrepreneurial. When all the other children’s stomachs were growling at night, Augie slept like a baby. The elder monks wondered why he never complained. Augie must have been a little too sly for his own good because one night an elder monk found a banana under his pillow and Augie admitted during the trips through the village he grabbed bananas to save for a personal feeding at night. Three months later, Augie returned home from the monastery. It sounds similar to my brownie adventure. I bought the clothes, sold the cookies and then quit.
In Pa-O culture, Augie’s tribe, the husband must live with the wife’s family. Augie jokes that he and his wife have to build their own home because he and his mother-in-law bicker all the time. She says he is lazy. He thinks she needs to mind her own business. I asked if they could live with his parents and he responded laughing hysterically, “my wife no like my mother either.” Family differences exist in families across the globe. Augie and his wife met at the hotel they were both working at near Inle Lake. He was a chef and she worked as a waitress. Many of the young people have figured out working in the hotels and tourism industry affords them more opportunity than farming, which leaves an insufficient number of people to grow and care for the crops. In Augie’s opinion, “everything controlled by wife. She controls the kitchen. All the money in the kitchen. How she manages the kitchen how she mange the money.” I didn’t have the heart to tell him the only thing in my kitchen is cheese or items from people’s wedding registries they couldn’t use.
Augie’s grandfather is a teak plantation owner. He yields $30 for his crop. That crop would likely sell for millions in the United States but in Myanmar the government pays his grandfather a sum and then likely sells the supply to the highest bidder reaping the benefits. Augie’s mother bought him land to build a home and his grandfather will provide the teak wood for the house but he must patiently wait until March 2015 to start construction. According to the monk, March is a good month (his birthday month) and 31 a promising age for good fortune.
Augie consulted the monk for me in honor of my birthday.
My lucky stone is ruby, my best direction is northeast and I should never trust anyone born on a Saturday or Thursday. He will make a horrible partner and as a friend or colleague he/she will stab me in the back. My best partner is someone born on a Friday ‘”cold” and “the moon” to my Sunday “hot” and “sunshine.” Together, we bring peace, which is likely important since Sunday babies are too sensitive. Any single men born on a Friday left in the 40-50-age range? I’m available. I’m ready and please live somewhere exotic so I can use my passport.
See below chart if you are curious as to your sign.