Today started with a shiver. Snowflakes wildly blown by the strong wind signaled the arrival of winter. Hardly anyone walked on foot outside. Cars stayed stuck in traffic longer than usual, all passengers looking grim, everybody rushing for something – something they take for granted.
It’s true! Many people take things for granted. You know, the little things that make our lives so much better like electricity, hot running water in your apartment, or just that refreshing coffee that slaps you awake in the morning. I know I did, and to some degree I still think I do. But this ignorance of mine that was cut short thanks to my current job – a communicator at World Vision.
Since my first joining in 2009, I’ve met many people, children and families who have amazing stories to tell and share. I remember vividly one of my first assignments, where I interviewed a herder family in the countryside that had been badly affected by a severe snowstorm in early 2010. They used to have a herd of 300 goats, sheep, cows and horses combined. They lost more than a third of their livestock - the only source of income.
When I first stepped into their ger (a traditional round-shaped tent with a felt covering), the sharp smell of animal dung struck my nostrils. The family explained the weather had been so cold, dropping to minus 25 degrees Celsius combined with snowstorms, that they decided to keep the animals indoors at least until the storm was gone. The weather was simply too harsh for them to survive on their own.
But inside, though, there was a round-shaped stove in the middle of the ger, with a long chimney sticking out of the roof area. Herders burn wood and coal to heat the place. “The children love having [the animals] around,” the man said while sipping a cup of hot milk tea, and wearing layer after layer of clothing to stay warm.
There was a deep sense of unsettlement in his face, because he would shake it off and try to joke about how he was grateful that he hadn’t taken a loan with collateral on his livestock. “That would’ve sucked,” he said, poking fun at the way his children talked and his three listening children burst into laughter.
After I said farewell to the family, I began questioning myself.
What would I do if I were in his shoes?
Would I be able to keep my cool even when more than a third of my property was simply wiped out with the winter wind?
Would I be able to live with animals in the same space and crack a joke with a stranger?
It would take a lot of patience and this herder was showing it. The family was stripped of their private space, having to share it with their animals so that they can survive the winter. What strength.
A couple days later I got a call from a friend who complained that he couldn’t take a shower because there was no water in his flat for a few hours.
That was funny.
The family I had visited would barely get water for their own consumption in the cold. It did give me a sense of how we take the little pleasures of modern city life for granted.