Daily Archives: March 27, 2008

Life on a porous border

img_3061.jpg The border between Thailand and Burma is surprisingly porous. We began to be aware of this when we crossed “the bridge” to renew our visas. Our trip to the local church celebration last Sunday underlined just how permeable a frontier drawn on a map can be.

The village itself is comprised mainly of Karen “Internally Displaced People” though it is in Thailand, on land rented cheaply by a sympathetic Thai citizen, and ignored by the Thai authorities. Some of the villagers are Thai citizens, as are their children. (To complicate matters often one parent is an IDP the other a Thai-Karen.)

It is also home to a school, which teaches not only village children, but also children whose parents live inside Burma (they live in dormitories) and some from refugee camps too.

img_3067.jpgOne teacher we talked to a lot gave us a good impression of a school with very few resources indeed, except the people. The children get meals (thanks to Children on the Edge – the Body Shop Foundation): rice everyday, meat at least once a month, and vegetables, yellow beans or fish paste each twice a week. However, there are few or no textbooks, even for the teachers to use. The guy we talked with has studied engineering in Burma (at Mandalay University) before fleeing to China and getting a degree in Computers, Maths and English. I wonder how many NZ schools on making a change to the curriculum get rid of the old textbooks. If you know of one do let us know, maybe we can arrange to get them to people who will really use the “old” books. In some subjects real numbers would be great, in others enough for the teachers to use or to make a small library for the students would help.

As a final illustration of the porous border we went for a bath at the river, and watched motorized bullock carts (powered by rotovator engines) go back and forward across the frontier, or sometimes merely down the border to re-enter Burma a hundred or two meters downstream.

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Jubilee opens

We are into the third day of the Jubilee, and I have not managed to post 😦

Part of the audience at the youth evening (between sets)Crowd at KKBBC convention (youth evening)

The celebrations bagan with a wedding – not part of the jubilee or the assembly/convention of the KKBC (Kawthoolei Karen Baptist Churches) but an appreciated addition (with maybe some photos or video when I get time to sort and edit them).

We start at 6am with a service, though the noise starts earlie – not least testing the temperamental sound system. Then breakfast – the full Karen deal with rice, meat, chicken and veges. There are meetings through the day, though we are not really involved, since they are all in Karen (I wish I could follow enough Karen to attend the KKBBSC meeting, I’d love to be involved in the discussions about a programme to follow the BTS).

My neighbour

karen-lad.jpg The day officially ends with the evening session starting at 6pm, after tea, so about 9pm. Tonight is the Karen cultural performances, to which we are looking forward eagerly. Last night was the “youth” with bands that attracted a huge crowd, including the young kids who sneaked into the empty VIP seats next to me! Maybe I’ll upload a short video to give you a feel for it…

However, we are next to the computer and communications centre (the room that the teacher who is responsible for IT occupies, with his mobile phone) which is often a busy place at night… So the afternoon is for sleep (if possible). The morning is for preparation – I give the “charge to the graduates” on Saturday morning – and marking both Barbara and I have assignments to mark.