A necessary reminder

today began as one of those days that make me remember why i love traveling:

it's the gathering together of people from all over the world, each with their own unique story and journey. 

the girls and i got up late for breakfast because lili had another rough night sleeping due to her vivid dreams. she woke up in the middle of the night crying and hugging me saying, "mommy! i'm scared of the lion!"one day i'll have to tell you the hot dog story- this girl has some crazy dreams.

when we got down stairs, the older belgian man who checked in yesterday was already at the table eager to chat. he started asking me different travel questions: what i was doing in asia alone with my children, how to get to indonesia from singapore via ferry...should he or shouldn't he go back to thailand to the 28 year-old woman he spent a week with who doesn't speak english or french, but swears he's "in love" with. we'll save that story for tomorrow's post i'm entitling "vaginas for sale." i'm not kidding, stay tuned.  

a little bit into the belgian's ramblings, the the french guy -who's actually a french-speaking swiss- came down to check out. he was off to begin cycling from malaysia to thailand, then into cambodia and vietnam. he started his journey cycling through europe; he then took a plane to the states, cycled from las vegas to san francisco, stayed with some friends and then flew to singapore.

he had biked from singapore to malaysia, and actually turned out to be a really cool guy.

i think i prejudged him as a crabby european annoyed by my children. after the girls weren't throwing up in front of him, he seemed to be quite taken with them and always had an adoring smile. 

the swiss guy and i say our goodbyes, and the belgian keeps on talking. 

later this REALLY cool couple from the states, michael and eileen, come down. we chat about where we're from, about eileen taking a six month leave of absence from her job to travel, they asked how the girls and i ended up in asia, our 30-hour train ride from bangkok to kuala lumpur, our 17+ hour journey in third class from bangkok to chiang mai, the girls' love of the squatty potty, how i keep the them busy on such long train rides and the twelve counties lili's been to and the fifteen for ama.

i shared my ideas about the false notion that you have to do all your adventurous travel before you have children because most people believe that international travel becomes out of the question.

well, most americans that is. and no matter where in the world you're from, people can't believe that i would be traveling alone with two little girls...

michael and eileen were mad cool. we all just instantly connected.

michael played 'kung fu' with the girls, we all chatted, took pictures together- well, eileen took pictures because my camera was upstairs. they were on their way back to singapore to catch their flight to india as they are going to spend five weeks traveling there  and will attend a wedding.

and all the while, the belgian is still talking... 

a bit later sebastian came to eat breakfast. i've always observed sebastian to be this really mellow, super zen-type guy as he spent six months living in a buddhist monastery in thailand. the belgian asked him a question, and i swear i thought sebastian was going to kill him. 

the conversation went as follows:

the belgian: "do you know anything about batam, indonesia?"

sebastian: "don't you EVER f%*king speak to me! you exploit my countrymen and come on your asian holiday and ask me for help?! i don't think so. don't f%*king talk to me! don't say another word."

yikes! i seriously thought sebastian was going to punch him.

after the belgian finally left, i asked what happened between them. i guess earlier that morning they had been talking and once the belgian found out sebastian is polish, he started bragging about the polish workers he employees at his company in belgium. he pays them about 1/3 what he does belgians, but feels like he was doing them a favor since it's double what they would make in poland. and here he is, a rich western european holidaying in asia, after making a fortune by exploiting the misfortune of others.

i would have lost my zen -or in my case, my Jesus- too.

sebastian lived in scotland for awhile working because it's hard to earn a decent living in poland, even with his university studies. his mother lived for 10 years in chicago and is currently working in scotland. he told me stories of polish people working the in the uk; how they're treated as third class citizens and the shame that's held over many of them for being polish. he also told of the exploitations and hard lives that many polish face when working in western europe: you get paid less than minimum wage, which is more than what you'd earn in poland, but making it almost impossible to survive while living in western europe. sebastian had a good job in an office in scotland, but that's not the typical story of the average polish working abroad. 

and the belgian couldn't understand why sebastian was so angry. he was bragging as if sebastian should be grateful that he was "helping" his fellow countrymen.

power. privilege. exploitation. the plight of the undocumented worker: it's the same story all around the world. 

i shared some stories of our own problems in the states concerning this subject.

and then the day got much lighter; the girls and i were going to go to the zoo but it was TOO hot! ama and lili are feeling much better and i wanted to try and get them out of the hostel again. by the time we were dressed and ready to go, the bloody midday sun was at its peak. we decided to get roti from our favorite indian place and have a (very quick) picnic. 

we sat by the river and ate, while the girls waved to people on boats passing by.

hopefully tomorrow we'll get up and out early and actually make it to the zoo...


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