Living in a refugee camp involves continual attempts to adapt restrictive circumstances so that life can become more “normal”. For different people, the pressure points are different, therefore as anywhere people have different priorities.
For Thra (Teacher) William, gardens are important. He also wants a nice house and is currently converting his basement to make new rooms. He always opens his home to others – there are currently several young men staying long term while they study, and Shirley lives there too when she is teaching at KKBBSC).
His small yard has become a colourful and attractive oasis amid the brown packed earth that is more usual, he even has a lawn, all grown from cuttings and a few transplanted starters.
For many refugees the camp provides the sense of being “shut up like a bird in a cage”. Here access to cell phones, and cheap deals that let you call without extra charge in the daytime, mean that they can speak to friends and family even those far away. Phones are a special joy, since they are kept out of the reach of ordinary people in Burma, where the military government prices a SIM card at US$1000.
With the dropping price of laptops, and an increase in availability of second hand ones, more people than two years ago can access the world by this route.
The market is also a large scale adaptation, people spot a need: flip flops, cloth, rechargable torches, tea leaves… and arrange (or themselves risk a trip to town) to get a supply and sell them at a small markup. Where the money comes from is as they say another story (or rather many many varieties of story).
The Bible School is another huge and complex set of adaptations. Teachers and students get purpose in a place where paying work is forbidden. Familiar values from the “old days”, and the home land, are preserved and celebrated. Community is built. Music is performed, which requires extensive practice, thus in yet another way filling time that would in the outside world be demanded by paid work.