It’s been quite the whirlwind of a few days, but here’s what we’ve got:
First, we spent Monday to Tuesday in Noh Poe, a refugee camp about five hours south along the border. Refugee camps change the way you view things. A little village is built around the idea that it is a temporary place to live, but they have been there for nearly twenty years now. Choosing to focus on the more optimistic or light-hearted aspects of the trip:
- The drive was extremely curvy and mountainous. For those of you that have been to “the mountain” in Gatlinburg, imagine that last fifteen minutes of vomit-worthy curves on the way to the house, and then multiply that into at least three hours. Between Stephen and I in the two days, we took a pack of Dramamine.
- On the way we passed Umpiem camp, where our dear friends Law Del Moo et al. are from, and it made me miss them all so badly. I wish I could swing by to their house to celebrate another birthday over ice cream sundaes, sew for hours, or hum along with a beautiful hymn.
- We had a lot of bananas and water. Every home you visit offers you food, and bananas must be in season now.
- We spent most of our time at two children’s homes that are supported by Partners. Each has about 100 students of varied age (maybe 10ish to as old as 25). They are all attending school and live in the refugee camps, but their parents are back in Burma, so they live at the home.
- We attempted to understand many Karen conversations quite unsuccessfully, but more than we did a year ago. We did come back more motivated to study, too! (On a side note, Karen lessons are going really well, so thank you so very much to everyone who is faithfully praying for us!)
- It’s going to be a rough year for the refugee camps. We learned that the UN is actually not very involved in the refugee camps here in Thailand…it’s all political and right up my alley, but you may find this uninteresting: Thailand is a part of the UN Convention for the Status of Refugees, they ultimately never ratified the document in the 1950s. Thus, they were recently ranked as one of the top 10 worst places for refugees. Either way, this comes into play because the UN has very little control or power. Thailand does their own registration for refugees on the border, provides soldiers, etc. (Interesting note–they haven’t officially registered refugees into the camps for at least five years.) Food and provisions are provided by local NGOs, with the primary organizer being the Burmese Border Consortium (TBBC). (For those curious, the only place the UN really does play a role is in resettlement because refugees have to be registered with the UN and apply for resettlement through the UN & UN partners.) All that to get to this: TBBC has had to cut their budget this year by 75%. That’s a doosie. Thus, rice will likely only being given to registered refugees and it will have to be simply shared among thousands more. Bamboo and leaves to repair homes are only being given to the most dire situations, but many are still really desperate to make repairs. It really breaks my heart because when it comes down to why budgets are being cut: a few big supports of TBBC have claimed that providing for the refugees and displaced actually prolongs the war because it makes life livable outside of their country. In some ways, yes, this is true–the war is prolonged, but is that bad? It’s easy to say from an international perspective that war is bad and should end. It’s a completely different story when that “end” involves the end of whole people groups. It’s a completely different story when you walk in a village of thousands of people making their home in a foreign land where they are quite unwanted because they are simply lucky to be alive. Anyway, it’s going to be a rough few years, it seems. Partners, too, has had to cut back their budgets in some small ways (not nearly at 75%, thankfully). It’s hard to be the bearer of bad news into these places of need.
[Sorry; back to lighter note.]
- We were fed some wonderful Karen meals, at one of which I ate these beans that were kind of difficult to chew…I ate quite a few though because I liked the flavor and the opportunityt o eat vegetables. Then I noticed after the meal that everyone was pulling some string part of it off and leaving it on the table. Ooops.
- I went to shower before heading to bed and we had a candle to use. I decided to go ahead and bring a flashlight so I had some more freedom to move it (and I figured if I was throwing water everywhere, that candle would out pretty quickly). Well, with my trusty flashlight I discovered a very large spider on the wall by my towel and a whole pack (Stephen counted at least 13) of ginormous cockroaches along the back wall. They were at least three inches long each. I started to wonder if maybe it’s best to not know so much of what’s around you.
And that’s Noh Poe in a nutshell?! Really, it was a pretty short trip and hopefully we’ll be back before too long with a team.
Second, we have a home! We were able to move in Tuesday afternoon when we got back from Noh Poe. It’s still quite a mess as we try to sort through things and purchase the things we need (dishes, sheets, rice cooker, etc.), but hopefully we’ll be settled in a few days. They are still a few things to be installed, as well–they are putting in a sink for us (there isn’t one in the bathroom currently) and a hookup for a washing machine this weekend. Either way, we’re thankful to be in a home and not a guesthouse! We’re thankful we can cook our own food instead of eating out, even if it’s currently eggs & cereal. We’re also thankful to unpack our clothing for awhile and rediscover what we actually packed a month ago!
Oh, and we came home to find a HUGE and very fast spider on the floor. He was quite hard to get and had to be massacred leg by leg, but Stephen won. Aren’t the pink curtains in the back pretty wonderful? We’re hoping to say goodbye to those this weekend, but we’ll see.
Tonight we got our bedroom in order. We emptied it, washed down the walls, mopped the floors, etc. And one room is wonderful! We’ll continue to pull things together and post pictures.
And third, we have a motorbike! We were able to purchase one today. Stephen loves it, mostly because he’s now realizing how awful the one we had rented was. The brakes work, it turns easily, it starts easily, the gas gauge works, it doesn’t randomly die in the middle of the road…could you ask for more? It really does work great, and we’re excited to have transportation around town.
Stephen’s most excited about the nice shade of red, while I really love the basket on the front to hold all of our treasures! This is the driveway of our house, by the way, with our front door in the background.
So there you have it.
Oh, and something I learned about myself this weekend: I’m biased to think that men are better drivers. Perhaps because it’s true of my parents (no offense, mom, but it’s true); and Stephen & I, as well. Hmmm.