This morning is quite chilly, and the air is filled with smoke. I have already pulled a few ashes out of my tea this morning and my throat is becoming raw from coughing. The fields are all on fire around me as “burning season” begins after the sugar cane has been harvested. Apparently the charcoal helps re-fertilize the soil for the upcoming year. The fog is thick and the sunrises and sunsets are a bright red ball that one only sees in Asia.

I wake early enough to see the sun rise every morning on my commute the the local restaurant, Casa Mia, which serves an amazing array of wonderful food that they miraculously do all international and local dishes better than anywhere else in the world. Of course, the meals cost nearly pennies and considering the quality and generosity of service, my life is filled with luxury.

Luxury and poverty, in fact. After these glorious meals, we get dressed in clown outfits and see some of the worst poverty I have ever been witness to. Shanty towns and orphanages, schools for the homeless children. Last week a village burned to the ground in less than 45 minutes as the workers worked for pennies in the fields. We visited their school last week, of course, the children were not present this year, they were rebuilding their homes.
Some days are hideous, children beating on eat other, breaking up fights, cleaning blood and trying to work through mobs of children who know they can’t all have one toy each and are barely interested in sharing. Pile ups for friendship bracelets and stickers, trying to ensure no one sees your one on one moment with a child in the field who’s avoided all contact with the circus before the others come running towards you because they saw you give him something.

Other days, you are in a quiet temple with monks, performing in front of the Buddha, trying not to offend by lifting your feet in the wrong direction (offensive to the monks and Buddha). The children follow your every word and move and would not dare be free on their own. It takes all of your effort to get them to express themselves naturally for one moment of joy with them. They would not dare ask for something, but if you place it on the ground in front of them, they will take gifts lovingly with gratitude.

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