Here’s what I love about Phayong village: Everything.
I love the food: Sweet potato soup, boiled chicken fresh off the butchering block, sardines with pumpkin, and, of course, Beer Lao. Each dish served in extreme excess by a lovely, toothless granny sporting a traditional Hmong skirt and a Billabong hoodie. Each bite savory, spicy and thick with fat.
I love the boys who, up till the age of five, habitually go pantless. Pantless and fearless. Slide down a poorly sanded wooden stick, naked? Of course. Hop on your makeshift skateboard and barrel down a hill, naked? Obviously.
I love the girls. The young Hmong women who already look and feel more mature then I’ll ever be. By age twelve, they’re cooking the meals, going to school, and raising their siblings. Their faces are rich with experience and understanding, their humanity and compassion for strangers indescribable.
Here’s how much I want to live in Phayong village: not at all.
I love my life. I chose my partner. I’m 24 and am happily childless. I travel. I live where I want. I have a job that, given all the choice in the world, I would choose 100 percent of the time.
When I do manual labor, it’s for fun (ie: four poster bed building with my very handy man).
I am educated, and there was never any question that I would be.
I have absolute and complete freedom in my future.
I’ll go back to Phayong again and again. This afternoon in fact. I’ll eat the food, play with kids, and be humbled by their kindness each time.
But each time, I will come home, thankful for my partner, my education, my life.
Thankful for my choices.