Mae Sot is changing. In many ways it has been since we moved, as we are in the more “developing” part of the world. But the past year in particular has held some giant leaps.
They are paving paradise and putting up parking lots all over the place.
There is a part of me that believes development is good. Don’t we call this place “undeveloped” in a negative sense? Isn’t that so much of what I studied in school–how to bring development to the world? How to help people and communities discover the advantages of development?
And let me tell you, these new items are extra shiny to the eye. Not only do we now have chocolate chips and peanut butter available to us, but our newest concrete masterpiece offers Pepperidge Farm Goldfish! And a selection of cheese! (And they only ask for one retirement fund as payment…)
Really, it’s fun to suddenly have these things available. It was so fun to see Stephen so excited for a real ice cream shop, and this was only trumped by the joy of this shop putting mint chocolate chip on the menu! And now we have two movie theaters playing English movies on occasion, and he’s just on top of the world (and really, this saves us from a trip to the city to watch his favorites!). I was giddy for my stocking holding the aforementioned Goldfish and canned olives.
We also just got a Boots, which I’m just over the moon for. For the Americans among us, this is the world’s best version of a Walgreens, coming from England. It’s spectacular. They have all the great hair products and Qtips, makeup in shades that just might work for me, even tampons. And to top it all off, they have sales constantly to make these Western items affordable if you are patient. I’m absolutely thrilled about our latest Boots addition, and I won’t even hide it.
So it’s good, right?
But when you see it happening, it’s heartbreaking. The percentage of concrete increases daily and reaches toward the sky. The number of cars multiplies. And beyond that, an entire town becomes more “official” and pushes out those dearest to me, who are bit more “unofficial,” if you will.
How do we support the little guy, many of whom we love?
We don’t always go to the big shops. It’s tempting, I’ll tell you. It’s pretty easy to buy everything in fell swoop, right?
But I can’t. I can’t give up on the little market ladies that know us. I can’t pass on the little snippets of conversation in Burmese and they joy they get when I spend $6. I can’t give up on the ladies that ask if we are buying this for our blind friend. I can’t give up on the amazing pharmacist that has diagnosed me and helped me find the right medicine time and time again.
I can’t see their doors close.
So we go to the market each week. We struggle to park the car, we get our feet muddled in who-knows-what, and we buy from vendor after vendor. We go to the little shop to buy all of our bread ingredients from the man that is holding his little girl at the cash register. We buy our bread from our neighbors even after it was baked in our oven.
Sometimes we do go to enjoy delicious mint chocolate ice cream and find ourselves some cheese. Sometimes we watch Star Wars twice because its a $3 air-conditioned date. And let me tell you, I’ll be visiting Boots enough to know the sales. So change is a good thing, in some ways.
In other ways, I will pray more for our neighbors as they are pushed to the margins. I will knead bread alongside them as we try to hold onto the beauty of homemade! I will get outside of the concrete and soak up the mountains and sunsets over rice paddies.