Listening for the Alien Heartbeat

We pass through stretches of teak, then huge thickets of great bamboo.  There is a mighty uproar of cicadas, making it harder to keep a cool head and a steady step.  Sheer black walls of mountains to the left ahead.

Early afternoon we arrive at a Khmu village and stop to rest.   It is in the mountains, and at the foot of more mountains.


The Khmu are animist, they pass stories down by the fireside at night, and they grow rice and vegetables in the surrounding forests.   At first the children hang back:


But they are not shy and once I hit my head on a beam, fall over something, and then take my boots off to inspect my feet, they gather in to laugh and horse around.

Adults gather round for a chat.  I suspect they also are expecting me to break something.


From where I sit I can see in the kitchen, a mountain kitchen with a dirt floor and not much in the way of utensils:


As I look at them, I realise how beautiful they are, and how poor.


This girl’s face stays with me as I walk:  you can see beauty and malnourishment,  intelligence and illness.  She is a child, she has little, and she asks for nothing:


We have to leave, otherwise  we will be spending the night in the open.  We  pass by mountain rice and pumpkin growing beside the track.   But then it becomes quite dense, and from here it is all uphill.


I am tired, my boots drag, and the girl sits heavy in my heart.

(events 6 Oct 2013)

26 Responses to “Gentle, Laughing, Poor”

  1. Mike Goldstone

    Michael, it’s a world away from where you fell down a pothole in NYC…..

    • Steve Robertson

      Michael, I’m happy you sent me the link to your blog. I’m late to your journey and am spending time catching up, but your chronicles are wonderful and insightful. Your creative genius shines through, whether in deal-making or blogging an adventure. Thanks!

  2. disperser

    When I think of so many who have so much and don’t appreciate anything . . . she’ll stay with me a bit as well.

    • alienheartbeat

      it is funny, it wasn’t intended as a portrait. it was just a small part of a larger picture. but cameras are so good that you can retrieve things you did not expect.

  3. Lectures au Coeur

    Thank you so much for this very sensitive photo report.

  4. seekraz

    I used to do fieldwork in the inner-city and outlying neighborhoods of Phoenix and would sometimes find myself staring at the beautiful little faces surrounding me in the squalor…and I wondered and hoped for their futures. You’ve made a beautiful portrait, even if accidentally.

    • alienheartbeat

      yes, you see them in many places. But it is funny, in some poor places you don’t see them – because despite the poverty people take excellent care of their children – Armenia comes to mind.

  5. Victoria

    She is stunning, in every way imaginable, and unimaginable. Imprinted, upon an open heart.

  6. Thoughts on Blogging | Disperser Tracks

    […] photo, and it becomes memorable. Two recent examples worth reading: from Scott’s Place and Alien Heartbeat. I still think about the little girl in the Khmu village, especially after seeing so many kids at […]

  7. alienheartbeat

    Thanks very much Lorenzo, but in deference to the 99.999999999% of the world’s population (including axe-murderers, loiterers, and the general unshaven) who are much sweeter than me, I better not accept.

  8. Dalo 2013

    Great photos and a look into life in a 3rd world countryside, and your words “As I look at them, I realise how beautiful they are, and how poor…” rings true. Often, I also find myself amazed at their happiness as well even with this poverty, and while I can’t shake my feeling of lost potential, there is nothing like seeing pure happiness in children and family. Great post.

  9. alienheartbeat

    Yes, I agree about the happiness. But in the back of your mind you see visions of their futures, and that is the bad part.

  10. Jessica

    You don’t appear to be writing much here anymore, but I loved this post. Hope you’re well!

    • alienheartbeat

      hi Jessica, good to hear from you. yes, I’ve stopped travelling for a while and focusing on finance and re-building my intellect after 3 years of travel. I tend to be single-minded, and the writing was for the travelling.
      Perhaps in another few years I take off another few years.


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