"White Girl"

"White Girl"

Thursday, December 27, 2012

You've Been in The Jungle Too Long When...

You've been in the jungle too long when...

1) You start to stare at all the foreigners and think, "Wow, they are so white." Forgetting that you yourself are white, and/or that you just forgot you were white under all the jungle dust of the dry season

2) You get the urge to run after said foreigners just to have a little "chat" with them that somehow turns into a three hour long discourse of your life because you are so lonely

3) Eating with your hands, and large amounts of ants and other bugs that make their way into your food and it seems normal

4) You have eaten monkey poo. According to locals its clean cuz monkeys only eat leaves...

5) You no longer use toilet paper

6) You can chop up anything with a machete including filleting that fish you caught in the river, and am about to cook for dinner

7) You can sleep anywhere, including concrete floors and hammocks, and withstand the harshest mosquito attacks

8) When you start to have more odd illnesses then you can count, such as tropical ulcers, dengue fever, heat rash, a rash just for the sake of having a rash, worms, more fever, diarrhea, and things that don't even have English names

9) When you start to love it... Everyday's an adventure!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Do You Have A Father?

Well folksies, I had this great little story wrote up but then realized I forgot to save it, and when I restarted my computer I lost it. It was actually a somewhat difficult story to write and to tell because it involved death, and those stories are always so vivid and delicate.  Anyways, I will try to reconstruct what I remember writing although it was a while ago already.

    Sometimes, life has a way of just throwing everything you think you know in your face.  Right now, my seemingly simple English lesson was staring me in the face flaunting its naivety.  I was trying to teach my students family words like, mother, father, brother, sister... I thought it was a good idea to use questions to help them remember their new vocabulary.  So, in bright blue ink across the whiteboard was written, "Do you have a father?.  Yes, I have a father.  No, I do not have a father.".
     "No, I do not have a father. He was killed by the Burmese soldiers. I was only two at the time. The soldiers came to my village and everyone ran into the jungle. The soldiers threw me into the river. I could not swim. Someone found me. My father stayed behind to face to the soldiers because he was a Karen leader. Later my mother went back to the village to find him. She found him dead. They had cut off his hands, and arms..."
     The Burmese soldiers, well, literally cut off anything that could be cut off.  His ears, his nose... even his heart had been cut out and then stuffed into his mouth.  This person's father had been mutilated in death. Its a gross story really, and very demoralizing.  Sometimes, I meet someone and he/she tries to convince me that people are basically good but, then I hear a story like this and I am not convinced that as humans we are somehow just good.  No, we only live in a good way when we consciously  choose to do so. In the same way, the soldiers that committed this atrocity knowingly carried out their dirty deed.  It was a choice for them.  They didn't have to do that.  Just as his father didn't have to be brave, but he made a choose to face the soldiers even though he most likely knew how  it would end.
     My student's only memory of his father is of his death.  He remembers his death all too well.  He speaks to me in frustration and anger, and with a vindictive attitude.  "I am not afraid of death. I will become a soldier in the KNLA (KAren National Liberation Army)  I want to fight them."  But, what about his own son?  Because this student of mine is married already and has a little boy.  What will his own child remember about him? 
     I ask him, "Will you feel better after you kill someone?". But, my translator refuses to translate that. She wants him to be a soldier and fight too. What the Karen don't realize is that the game has already changed in Burma. That the country is opening up, so that soon the Karen won't need to fight anymore but, they keep living in their memories of the past and the wrongs they have experienced. 
     The past is gone and the present has come, so I want to say to them, let go of the past and be a part of the change now.  Even if the country is opening up mostly for economic development and profit.  It might not be what the people of Burma have been dreaming of.  A free Burma, independent and with a democracy, but if the ruling elite finally decides to open up the country and let some of its power go, take that opportunity and run with it because it might be the only chance you get.
     The change that is coming to Burma, in my opinion, is like a flooding river.  It cannot be stopped.  The waters of change have been accumulating and growing over a long period of time added to slowly by drop after drop.  Once the flood waters of change starts to flow over the banks of society and people, it spreads over the low ground first slowly filling up all the spaces and then rising even more.  For Burma, lets hope its a good change and work towards that.  Its up to the Karen, and all the others in Burma who have been killed, attacked, and oppressed to stand up now and say that they won't allow that to happen again.  Ideally, the elite, its propaganda, and those who supported the ruling military junta in the past, also need to acknowledge the wrongs of its past and the atrocities it committed.  But, eventually, no one will remember what happened there anyways.  It will only be a past recorded and found in history books, and not a living reality anymore.  Perhaps, thats how it should be because if we live in the past, in our memories, and in the wrongs we have experienced, we won't truly be living now, in the present.  We will be a prisoner of the past.   In order to be a true survivor we must be living in the present.  The same goes for all those who have suffered wrongs and oppression around the world.  Let go of it, and live the life you have right now.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Motorbike Time!

Well, my first attempt at driving a motorbike at night, and in the rain was pretty mortifying. My vain self was put to shame. I remembered as I wobbled and hobbled all over the road that I had confidently declared just the day before that I could drive a motorbike. All of my new local "family" members and friends, looked at this little white girl and didn't believe a word I said. It is now apparent to me that they believed correctly. No, I did not crash into a tree or lay the bike down, but I performed miserably as the rain ran into my eyes, my headlight seemed so dim and weak in the dark, and my earlier confidence melted as the bike seemed to too powerful and huge.

I did drive off the road... only a little bit. I was pulling out of my drive onto the main road and swung a little wide. Granted, my rain jacked hood was covering my eyes, but I'm not sure if anybody else realized that. All they saw was the new, foreign teacher driving her motorbike off the road through a patch of lemon grass. 

Then, I made my way to the little shop where the fat, cat lover woman resides and one of my students bravely said she would ride with me the little way to the classroom. My take off was jerky, and extremely precarious. Somehow, we made it to class in the rain and up a muddy slope. I pulled to the top and started sliding down. How awkward. What do you do with a motorbike on a muddy slope when in starts rolling back down? Light-bulb!  Apply the break.

Anyways, I had a hard time focusing on teaching my English class as I kept picturing my self driving through that patch of lemon grass with a hood over my eyes. I was embarrassed and amused at the same time. I thought, if I couldn't take myself serious, as I quietly chuckled at myself, how could my students take me serious?

Next time, I wont declare so loudly and confidently that I can do something until I have at least tried to do it a time or two in the rainy dark.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Back In Thailand

Well, I'm back in Thailand but I have moved positions.  Previously, I was working and living at a children's home called Bamboo School.  Now I am living about fifteen minutes down the road with some local Karen.  Even though I have moved places some of my work is still similar.  I am still teaching English classes, but to a new set of students.  I teach five evenings a week.  The first day of class was quite a surprise.  Word had evidently spread that there was a new, white English teacher in the area and I think everyone who could, came.  It was a full house of new students bent over their notebooks, excitingly but shyly copying the ABC's down and learning new words.  Boy, they were everywhere I tell ya.  Spread out over the concrete floor, sitting on the few plastic chairs, and standing around.  Mothers came, grandfathers came, children came...  It was such fun and learning all of their names in one night, impossible!  I am very excited to see so many eager students, but it makes me more aware of my lack of training and ability to teach well.  But, every time I look at their eager faces I just have to give it my best shot for them.

Another experience I have had recently was attending the local Baptist Church here. They asked me to teach an English verse to one of the Sunday School classes.  I went and taught my verse, which was the only thing said in English, and three hours later class was finally finished. Man, I had no idea a Sunday School class could be so long and boring. : )  I really did try, but couldn't follow along very well.  Then, it was time for the actual service to begin which I sat through and understood maybe a total of 3 words. : )  The woman who arranged/invited me to come to stay in this village brought me in front of the congregation, and said a whole lot of something that I couldn't understand as it was in Karen, and then asked me to say something.  I had no idea what to say.  So I just told them, "Thank you for welcoming me to your home. I am very young and sometimes do not know what I am doing.  But I came because I believe God told me to come here anyways.  I will do my best to teach English and help you, but sometimes you might have to help me too."  They  seemed to like that... or something I said at least, because they all laughed, so I considered my little speech successful.  Sweet oblivion?

There is a little shop just beside my new home. Its matron is a funny, fat 
Karen woman who loves cats.  You can find her poking out her window making cat noises, and leaving little plates of scrap food around to feed her precious animals.  Sometimes, she walks around with a little kitten perched on her shoulders.  Another thing you will find her doing is making sure everyone is well fed.  She is very proud of her fat stomach and seems to think everyone would like to have one just as nice as hers, as she rubs her tummy and smiles, proudly showing me her well earned bulge as she offers me even more food.

 I was told when I arrived that a girl named Susanna will come to live with me.  This girl turned out to be 42 year old, Karen woman from near Rangoon.  Don't you just love cross-cultural/language communication?  My new friend is always chewing beetle nut and drinking hot "Myanmar Tea".  She is a teacher and a paster at the church here.  She has gone to Bible school in Burma, and is very thoughtful.  She loves to make condescending faces as she speaks to emphasis her points.  I am very thankful for my new companion whom I can have thoughtful, intellectual conversations with, although we don't always understand each other.  When she wants me to go with her she asks, "Will you follow me?" Instead of, "Do you want to go with me?"  Or she says, "Can you carry for me? What will you carry?" which means, "Can you help me?" So, its taking some time. Or, "How many spelling?" equals "How do you spell that word?"

Fun times! Really, the only truly frustrating thing so far has been not being able to leave the house where I am staying. The individuals who invited me to come teach here are very worried and concerned about my safety.  Since I have previously lived in the area, I have met many people and I know lay of the land well.  I am not concerned and want to go visit my old friends. They think I will practically get kidnapped if I step out the door.  They are very distrustful of the local Thais and police.  Rightly so for minority Karen at times, but not for a white foreigner.  I am trying to be very respectful and considerate of their concerns, but I have a strong, fearless  independent streak in me that rebels against such oppression.  : )

I think that's all I got for now. I will try to get some new pictures up for you all. I don't have regular internet access right now so that puts real damper on things.  Take care!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Goats and Trucks


The "Old Green Truck"
      Back to the goat, it really couldn't avoid being hit.  Luckily, I was not driving too fast when it ran into the road.  The poor thing had been tied to a tree and tempted by the greener grass on the other side of the road all day.  It was finally making a break for it when I happened to drive by.  It had no idea that it was going to be hit by an old green truck.  I squinted my eyes tightly, slammed on my breaks, and took a deep breath of anguish as I saw what was coming but couldn’t avoid it.  It made a great good sound as it ran into the truck but amazingly, it drunkenly kept staggering on into the jungle bush before laying down.  The owner ran out of his little house as I pulled over to the side of the road and picked up his now hurt and shaken goat.  I had no idea what to do.  What do you do in Thailand when you drive into a goat?  I was alone, I had never hit a goat before, and I had no one to translate for me or help me navigate this new experience.  The goat ran off again.  I’m surprised he didn’t give up running after such a traumatic experience, but then again, some of us never learn.  The owner looked a little confused and said some things in Thai. I don’t think he knew what to do either.  Its not every day that a little white girl comes out of nowhere and hits your goat with a truck.  Anyways, a young man was standing by and watched the whole thing.  Great, witnesses.  I just shrugged, lifted my hands in a "I don't know" kind of gesture towards the owner and the witness and got back in the truck.  As I drove off the young witness was laughing at me from my rear view mirror.  Then this morning, when I went to the local market my laughing witness spotted me, shrugged, and lifted his hands in a "I don't know" kind of gesture.  It all seemed pretty worth it then, getting to connect with a stranger over a goat and an old green truck.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

What It Really Means To Serve

I know I promised to write something about goats and green trucks last time I posted but it will just have to wait until next time.  I would like to share with you some other things

     Being in Thailand is hard sometimes.  No, I am not referring to the 80-90 degree weather in the middle of January and the bright sunny skies.  I am talking about being away from family and friends.  I can take the cold baths and washing my clothes by hand.  I can eat rice and vegetables three times a day.  I can handle getting covered in poo when diarrhea overcomes the little girl I am holding.  No problem!  What’s difficult is not getting to sit down at the kitchen table and have a good ol’chat with my mom.  Its difficult not getting to visit my brother as he roasts coffee at Dunn Brothers and do crossword puzzles with him.  I miss eating Sunday dinner with my family and friends.  I miss working in the garage with my dad in the freezing cold of December.  Its difficult. I miss getting to watch my little nephew grow up and learn to say things like my name.  I don’t get to go out for coffee with my besty friends or stay up late talking with them.
     So its difficult sometimes and I miss a lot of things.  So why am I here in Thailand serving at Bamboo School?  I don’t have to be here.  I could be home.  I could be building a career or something like that.  But God didn’t call me to take the easy road. (Luke 14:25-33) Being a Christian means doing the hard things and taking the bumpy roads for the sake of sharing the gospel (2 Corinthians 6:4-10 and Matthew 28:18-20)).  It means being true to what one believes and the salvation that we have received through Christ.  No hypocrisy or halfhearted living.  We have a race to run!  (1 Corinthians 9:26-27)

I recently traveled to Vientiane, Laos to get a new visa and then spent some time in Bangkok.  I noticed a lot of young travelers out on a gap year after high school or traveling around the world after finishing university.  All of them were very excited to be out and about, seeing new things and going exotic places, but they were all traveling with friends, staying in guesthouses, eating at restaurants and visiting touristy places.  It hit me that they were all excited to be in Laos or Thailand but were not actually connecting with these places.  They just hopped from one business that serves foreigners to another.  They weren’t doing anything for the places or the people they visited except provide a little income.

     It would be easy to live one’s life without caring about the rest of the world, or anyone else or those that are less fortunate than us.  That’s the easy road, not caring or doing anything about the things that bother us.  As a young, 23 year old, most of my peers are out there doing nothing with their lives.  A few of them are pursuing careers or are starting to build their own families but most of them are out there “living it up”.  Going out and being free by drinking their guts out and doing the partying scene.  They think that they are being rebellious against society and anarchist by getting wasted.  “Take that world! I am free enough to give control of of myself over to whatever I want! You’ll never own me!” This is the lie they believe and fall for.
     It would be pretty easy to forget the cries of hurting people not hear them with loud, mixed, techno music thumping in your ear dancing on on a dark floor - unless you happened to come face to face with those hurting people.  
      I went out with some new Thai friends for dinner in Bangkok.  They took me to a club after wards.  As I was sitting there, I kept trying to decide why in the world was I there.  There was no appeal in this place to me at all.  Everyone around me was laughing, drinking, and dancing together.  Singing out loudly together to the music.  It seemed like a very merry time, but all I could remember or think about were the kids I left behind at Bamboo School.  For this?  I remembered their voices singing in worship together in the early morning hours.  I thought about all of their stories.  For example, the little seven year old boy who walked across the Burmese border after his parents had been killed the Burmese military.  He had had nowhere to go.  That's how he end at Bamboo School.  I thought of little Dokmai whose mother left her abandoned at the hospital or the pregnant mother whose husband left her for another.  She had no money to take care of her son and the baby that was on its way and no home.
    So that's where the danger lies.  It lies in connecting with people and children face to face, living where they live and living how they live because it forces us to make a choice between taking the easy road or actually doing something.  Dangerous!  Satan has done a pretty good job of distracting my peers by filling them up with myths that drinking and partying means that they are free. That traveling places means that they are doing something with their lives.  If half my peers that are traveling around the world actually took time to do something for the people that they pay to visit and/or fill up their glasses than this world would already be a lot different.  Hopefully, it would be for God's glory.