There is a little boy sitting next to me, in a long coat and high welly boots. He has dirt on his hands in a way that you know that dirt is an inconsequential permanent aspect of his very being. He has a very tiny key ring twisted around his finger to make a ring, the tips curling into a design, and his face is almost as long as his hair, with a severe, yet fitting underbite. He tells me about his collection of bones.
“There’s the chicken skeleton… the jar full of mouse heads… oh, and the lizards… and the fox skeleton… and the pig skeletons… I have two of those… I also have a sheep skeleton… I’m just missing the hip and the tail on that one…”
“What do you do with all of them? Reassemble them?”
“Yeah. I use wire. Oh, and then there’s the cow bones… I just have a few of them… and the guinea skeleton… and the chicken feet, I have three of those… I have three cat skeletons… and then there’s the dried frogs…”
“Yeah those are funny, aren’t they?” His little brother chimes in.
I’ve lost track now, all I know is that this list goes on a lot longer than I ever thought that it would. Longer than I think I could convince you of. Approximately five to ten minutes of him slowly explaining the skeletons he’s managed to collect over the years and explaining how and what he’s reassembled. And slowly I’m falling back into my seat, more and more. I have been since I got here, when Anna explained how they managed to scrape the money together to buy the place, how they still live in caravans, how they still haven’t managed to change their clocks forward, because-let’s be honest-it’s entirely inconsequential to their life.
When I got here we had to pass through several gates and drive on a long, rocky road. Not even a gravel road. The kind of road that you have to drive 5 miles per hour down, that is made of rocks, not gravel, and has grass growing down the center of it. We arrived and Alan was busy chopping firewood, and as she started giving me the tour, two boys came running and yelling out of the wood work each armed with sticks and joined in a battle that only two little boys could create. As we carried on they slowly turned into pterodactyls calling out in the background as Anna showed me to the loo.
“This one is just for peeing… these two are for poo…”
Compost toilets, made out of wood, sturdy and ready for the challenge. A hose provided washing up water.
We go into the barn turned kitchen. The two boys follow us in and continue their rough playing by pushing each other around the table on a wooden bike. Anna and I chat, learning more about the person we’ll be working next to for the next two weeks. The kitchen is dark and quaint with a book shelf, a shelf containing jars of rice and other dried foods. There is a bowl full of apples and oranges and the boys eagerly eat them and talk about how good they are. The wood stove is quite warm keeping the kitchen near room temperature and also providing a cooking space, and I am offered tea. I say yes.
Alan comes in and sits down. Eventually the third and oldest boy comes in, the one with the perpetually dirty hands. He’s much quieter than the other two. I catch Alan looking at me with a slight twinkle in his eye. I can’t help but feel he’s sizing me up. I feel more and more what I’m wearing: a brightly designed blue and yellow shirt-my favorite, a glass bead necklace, skinny jeans and welly boots with pink flowers on them. He asks what my hobbies are. What I “do” as he said. I manage to mention I interpret sign language, I crochet, I started spinning my own wool, I cycle when I’m in Denver… but I can’t get myself to mention that I go to music shows, go out for drinks with friends, play the occasional game of pool… it all seems to inconsequential now…
With my carefully selected list of hobbies I seem to have gained a minor bit of street cred. I throw in that I grew up in the country, as if my small town experience were anything.
We eventually sit down to a meal of rice, bulgur wheat and cooked veg in a tomato sauce. There’s plenty of it. The littlest one gets excited about the wheat bulgur as Anna confirms that it is indeed, “his lucky day.” He explains that first he will eat his rice, eat his wheat bulgur, THEN his vegetables. The boys fall into excited banter, the kind that happens when a new comer is near, but occasionally fall quiet as Anna and I discuss wwoofing experiences. I can’t help but think about how rich these boys lives are. They have barely any amenities-no tvs, no x-boxes, no play stations. I’m not even sure they go to public school. But they have a whole world to explore. When the eldest starts to list his ever impressive collection of skeletons I can’t help but think about his adventures, his discoveries, his meticulous re-assembling. And when he tells me about the toy tractors he’s built and the sheds he’s made for them I can’t help but wonder at his already vastly developed sense of adventure and self motivation to do things. And as he’s listing of his impressive collection, I can’t help but think about my life, my job, my hobbies, my social life and my friends. I think about the system we’ve created that we live in and slave in that seems and feels so real. And all of a sudden that world seems less real… and this one seems that it should be.