We are out of the world, no service, the mobile phone has not notches and become just an object to illuminate the path to the room, in the starry nights. Electricity is rationed and only available from 6 pm to 10 pm, lacking all basic services and for the shower, the water is heated with fire.
The villages, set among the mountain valleys are torn between old traditions and new rituals. The woven-straw houses are starting to be replaced with wooden ones, brightly colored, and the wooden houses from the first brick houses. The wolf blows hard at night, shaking the branches of the pines and dropping down the petals of rhododendrons.
The ancient custom of tattooing the face of Chin women is likely to disappear soon, when the older generation will pass to a better life. The young people prefer to wear makeup on her face with the sandal wood, rather than get a tatoo on their cheeks as symbols of their tribe. And how blame them? The tattoo is practiced again with the chisel and it’s painful, so much so that the girls of 40 years ago – they do not get more tatoo since then – they had to stay at home for at least a week with a swollen face, unable to eat anything because of the pain, if not a bit of vegetable or bamboo soup. It’s not necessary anymore to “get ugly”, since the king hasn’t more looted the villages of the valley, after the 1948 revolution, steeling their the virgins,
In the first village near Mindat we are witnessing, unfortunately, to a sacrifice of a goat. Religion, in this part of Myanmar, is still confused between animist beliefs, Buddhist and Christian ceremonies practices.
A family has to take a long trip to Malaysia and wants to curry the favor with the spirits to have no problems along the way. The shaman is ready to help them. Bestrides a crude bow and shoot an arrow into the animal’s heart, while the poor, unaware of his fate, is browsing a palm leaf. All rejoice, the goat falls to the ground in agony. At the end a man slits its throat, while the shaman extracts with a tube, his fresh blood from the hole of the arrow. The roast will be cooked and his blood will be drunk. The spirits are happy now, the family will do a good trip.
In the afternoon we shake many hands, Paul takes a lot of photos, the elderly tattooed ladies are hospitable. They tell us about their children (at least 8 for each) and the fact that many of them have left the village in search of a job, in distant lands, some in Malaysia, others in America. An old woman of 88, little more than a meter high, playing a wooden flute with her nose nostrils. An unusual technique, but produces sweet sounds, melodic.
We visit the colorful local monastery. The nuns invite us to enter inside and attend the prayer. After just consume, with all the other monks, the poor meal, they eat what the community has given them, we continue towards to Kampetlet, after an other roller coaster on semi paved switchbacks of the Chin homeland. Other tribes are waiting for us, other tattoos to immortalize.
Paolo is in pain because of sciatica, but stoically resists the hardships of the trek.
Women wear traditional clothes for us, some of them ask us a fee, but it’s a small price, considering that their face is the only livelihood they have.
A young friend (35 years) of our guide died last night. We are invited to the funeral. We go down the tiring steps and find ourselves in the middle of a party. Everyone is already very drunk, the distilled palm wine does not forgive and it seems that also the deceased, he drank too much.
We are greeted with wide smiles and handshakes. There are tattooed grandmothers everywhere, surrounded by a swarm of grandchildren. The acrid smell of buffalo, skinned for the occasion, sticks to the clothes. The parts of the animal are scattered everywhere, even near the guitarist, cousin of the dead.
We are invited inside the house. The scene which presents itself is horrifying. The body of the dead man has been dressed in traditional clothes and is placed in plain sight, in a rudimentary cardboard coffin from pale pastel blue. Around him, three of his five children, are plaing happily while her mother, covered with a veil, sings songs and litanies. On the right of the coffin, some old drunk ladies, they sleep lying on beds made of rags. A young woman takes out her left breast to feed her baby, while others women are keeping alive the fire under blacks pots, where another buffalo is boiling. Everywhere, the pieces of the animal, are covered with dozens of flies. The stench of death is mixed with that of the flesh. We leave an offer to the family and we write our names and the donated sum, on a crumpled notebook; then we go out. The crisp mountain air is a cure.
Thirty boys are playing soccer in front of the monastery. They just finished burning a pile of garbage.The free education, they receive from monks, should be rewarded with some duties. Everything, in fact, has a price.
A small Maradona dribbles cleverly, barefoot on the stones, a dented ball. He will never see the lights of a stadium. He knows and we know it too. And at that time the awareness of undeserved birth on the right side of the world gives me a lump in my throat. The guilt of centuries of history, makes me breathing heavily and the surrender to the fate, it paralyzes me. The world is this, the well-being of a few is counterbalanced by the poverty of many. And I’m none to be able to change the geography of the wealth. But maybe something in my small way, I can do it.
I look at Paul, he understands. I’ll be back in the village with the guide, while Paul stays with the children. We search in several shops and finaly we found four new balls. A small booty.
When we launch them toward the boys, their eyes and the happiness of their “thank you”, they fill our heart. They will still barefoot, tomorrow, with dirty shirts and dripping nose , but today, today for a few hours they will have a new ball to play with. It’s not much, but for them it is enough. “Welcome” I answer them. And in my heart I know that, in fact, I am to be grateful, because it reminded me how much my family and me, we are lucky. And for real.