Noy and I excuse ourselves from dinner; it’s just after eight and people are heading to bed. The generator has been turned off, the moon is out and the fires are smoldering.
Here in Phayong Village, several hours from any main town, we live by the sun, the stars, the roosters.
This village of about 600 people sits in the middle of the mountains. An adventurous motorbike ride up a windy, uneven, and often flooded dirt road to get here. During the summer months, Phayong is cut off from any other village or town; rain falls and rivers rise, leaving them here, in this lush green pocket, alone.
As Noy and I walk the main path of the village, we hear sweet, low voices singing children to sleep, the crack and sizzle of water on flame, and the few lone roosters already starting to crow
Noy, who grew up in the city, in fascinated by life in the village. She is a part of Pencils of Promise because she deeply believes that everyone, regardless of status or location, deserves access to knowledge and opportunity. She says she can’t imagine being a woman out here, having a predetermined future of pregnancy, birth, work, repeat. Says she’s lucky for her wealth and choice.
At the top of the hill, we hear what is undeniably a teenage girl giggle. We shine our light ahead and see two girls, huddled together over a cellphone. This point, at the very peak of the village, is the only spot with phone reception.
I whisper to them, ‘saibaidee,’ and we share a quick understanding that nobody should know they are out here.
By all appearances, we share nothing, these girls and I.
But on top of this hill, huddled together, we smile, blush, and call our boyfriends to say goodnight.