Take a Ride on the Raw Butt Train
Sep 23, 2005
May 17, 2006
We get up early to meet our friend and rent a motorcycle. Despite the frequent stops, after 4 hours of riding, my butt feels like ground hamburger. It's a little like an inexperienced rider jumping on a horse for 4 hours, except it hurts in different places. We ride and ride on the road to Mae Sariang, past Mae Hla, the largest Karen refugee camp in Thailand. We turn off the road and arrive at a village that is also on the border to Burma. We walk down to the beach where the boats take the people to other towns, and to the village across the river if they have the DKBA's permission to come over. Some years ago, the Karen army was approached by the Burmese military. The military convinced the Buddhist Karens that the Christians did not appreciate their religion and gave them money to build pagodas and also sent a monk to preach that they should put their weapons aside. The Buddhists partly left the army to follow the monk and built the pagodas near the headquarters of the Karen army. This led to a splitting of two factions in the army, half of which joined the Burmese military, consisting mostly of the Buddhists. This faction was the DKBA. The other side was the KNU, which had now become much weaker to defend against the onslaught of the Burmese military. Our host tells us when she was younger, the military chased Karen soldiers across the river into her village in Thailand, shooting and burning. We are allowed a short visit. The town on the other side is in the shadow of a mountain. There is no real hospital. They are in need of bandages, gauze, malarial drugs, antibiotics, and everything else. A person from Burma's best hope for medical help is to try to pass over the mountain, the long day's trek to the nearest useable facility. This pass is dangerous on it's own and a sick person may not be able to handle the stresses of travel. The town across the river in Thailand does not have a decent hospital either, although there are nurses, but the Thai have freedom to travel on that side of the river a few hours by car to a larger town. We visit the school of about 20 kids and they sing us some songs in Burmese at the instigation of their young teacher, including Frere Jacques. We return to the orphanage and try to help her children learn the English alphabet and how to spell. We have a hard time getting them to remember that "f," "s," "x," and "h" all sound different. Even in the organized school, "F" is pronounced "if," "H" is "hach," and "Z" is "zed." The kids have Bible study in the same room we sleep under our blankets to keep warm.