I did an anthropology research trip in the Great Sandy Desert in Fall 2007. On the last night of the trip, I was eating my last meal with Desmond, a Martu man with whom I had spent the last few weeks hunting, sharing dreamtime stories and discussing Aboriginal culture. And he looked up at me and said, "Eva, you are my sister, and I am your brother."
Nothing he said could have moved me more. It was a moment I will never forget, and I hope the following story will help explain why.
"You see that?" Desmond asks quietly as he adjusts the gun on his shoulder.
Squinting across the red sand, I see a burned out old Jeep. In the middle of the desert. I turn my gaze back to Desmond, and he continues.
"Many years ago, there was a dispute between two brothers over the ownership of that car. When they took their trouble to Mooky -" (he's our medicine man) "- he told them to burn it. So they brought it out here and burned it.
"Because, to us, only two things matter: taking care of family, and taking care of land. The car came between family, so they destroyed it."
I'm moved - but coming from a land of small claims courts and arbitrators, I can't help but ask, "They didn't want to sell it and just split the money?"
He grinds his molars, as he often does when he thinks. Then he answers, "Sometimes, the simplest solution is best."
We continue our hunt in silence - after all, hunting works better when you're quiet. But, more important, living and working with the Martu has taught me something. I have one summer to do research in the Great Sandy Desert. I have one summer to sleep under unfamiliar stars every night - and, sometimes, wake to scorpions under my sleeping bag in the morning. I have one summer to hear dreamtime stories, to learn from elders who can recall the first time they saw a white person. Their culture is alive, and it is changing fast.
I have the rest of my life to talk. Now is the time to listen.
Welcome to our camp. Desmond told me a story, once, about the first time he ever saw a car. He'd been tracking a strange animal, whose tracks he had never seen before. Finally, he came upon the beast. He snuck quietly, quietly up behind the animal, then grabbed it by the tail. Suddenly, HIS HANDS WERE BURNING. Because what he'd grabbed was actually a tailpipe. And now, hikes that used to take him 3 days are now a short (though bumpy) car ride away...
Our silence ends when we spy a small herd of camels. Desmond aims at the weakest and shoots. We light a fire so the others can find us and help carry the meat back to camp.
Desmond doesn't talk much that night. He sits apart from the rest of the group and thinks about the life he took. I pull my damper and camel from the fire, put it on my plate, and brush off the ashes - who knew that meat, bread and ashes could taste so amazing? I've had $100 souffles in Paris and fancy gelatos in Italy. But nothing could ever compare to this.
Because sometimes, the simplest solution is best.
Yes, I was always that dirty. Half of the gear I took with me on that trip still is.
Some people are lucky enough to be born with siblings, and they share amazing adventures together during childhood. (Well, hopefully.)
And some people are lucky enough to find new siblings, all over the world, through travel.
Want to know more? Check out:
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Travel Hack: Do What You Do At Home While You Travel
Feeling Alone? The Best Solution May Be To Travel... Alone.
These Specific Behaviors Will Make You More Charismatic (And Help You Make More Friends!) Starting Right Now
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