10 Life Changing Days

Trip Start Jan 13, 2009
Trip End May 17, 2009

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Ban Thai

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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Can a week change your life?
If that week, or 10 days for me, was spent in Mae Sot, then it absolutely can. 
I last wrote about my first day at school. learning to drive a motorbike and just getting chucked into a routine that was not mine.
In the last few days I have been far too everything to write:   too busy, too amazed, too happy, too sad, too tired  and too overwhelmed to do much more than just take it in to process at another time.
10 days in Mae Sot included:
spending 10 days with some of the nicest people in the world,
tolerating some of the hottest weather on earth,
enjoying five days at the most joyful school I have ever been in,
 witnessing the kindest children willing to share everything they have with one another and us,
 seeing the arrival of 30 new children on the last day of school, shell-shocked and terrified having been just smuggled in over the mountain through the night before, to a place that might be their new home forever or for a week until they have to flee somewhere else,
 seeing children shaken to the core when a balloon burst because they are used to gunfire,
receiving gifts of barrettes and love notes and drawings and bracelets from children whose only personal possessions were those items,
being asked by my big boy students to never forget them,
witness to a large population living on the City dump - yes on top of the dump so they can quickly access plastics as they are dumped for resale to recyclers, the worst living conditions I have ever seen,
watching one of our Monk students getting his paperwork telling him he will be going to the USA, by himself, in two weeks - pure joy, relief and fear at the same time as the reality set in,
sneaking into the free clinic for illegal's and seeing the surgery unit and the absolute deplorable conditions the volunteer medical students and nurses are working in, hoping their presence is making a difference to those with no choices,
seeing and learning what coconut penis' is, (self inflicted but incredibly nasty),
touring a 53,000 person refugee camp with two of the locals and seeing what 25 years of refugee life looks like, then staying overnight in the neighboring village with those who have escaped the camp,
seeing a hillside at the refugee camp dotted with Buddhist temples, Christian churches and Hindu Mosques,
meeting dedicated people from all over the world who have been touched by the plight of the Burmese and are working for change here in Mae Sot, one case at a time,
seeing a dying baby in the mother or grandmothers arms as she sat on the side of the street,
learning about things happening in Burma that can't be shared here,
seeing the daily trading of thousands of sapphires and rubies on the street in front of the real gem trading centers,
seeing opium/betel nut/ snacks be sold from street carts,
sharing delicious evening meals, that with drink, cost less than $1.00,
And finding all of this in a town that has two 7-11's and a popcorn machine!!!!!  Everything I need in life.
I could go on and on about what I have been lucky enough to see in Mae Sot but I couldn't put it into words.  I hope some of these pictures will give you a glimpse.  I think, to most of you, much of this will look sad and bleak.  The conditions are sad, but the people are very happy.  There is more singing and laughing here, more sharing and more joy then I see in my world at home.  Everywhere:  the schools, the dump, the camps, people were singing, wanting to share with us what they had, sometimes they only had songs to give us; the gift of music, sometimes it was food, and always it was thanks for coming.  Not once, in 10 days, did anyone ask me for money. 
What these people have that many of us at home do not, is time.  They are not rushed, they are calm.  They are not in a race to fill their lives with more stuff or more activities.  Most are Buddhists and they live in the moment, accept what they have and where they are, yet still try and make merit everyday by doing something good.
Mae Sot has taught be many things.  It will take a while to figure out what they are.
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tgcanada on

Your 10 days ...
Thank you for sharing this all with us, so far removed from your present reality. Your photos of the people are amazing. I see true joy and beauty in each face. How do they manage to be so clean, coming from refugee camps? Thank you for posting the video. It gave me chills and made me cry. Everytime a child turned and smiled at the camera or waved seemed like an instant of pure joy. Fabulous Deb. Take care.

jenniferwilson on

amazing kids
Wow, thanks for your story! It is truly touching.

lanaandgord on

10 days can change your life...
I am not sure what to say Deb but I love hearing stories where people really get what travelling is about. It isn't about pitying others for not having the material things...they lives are what they are...with or without the stuff. And we can't feel totally guilty about being destined into life in the developed world where we have the stuff but more importantly we have choice (education, health care, security of income, travel). It is a hard thing to reconcile with yourself and it is SO big and life changing. I struggle with it even when I am immersed in my first world life.
Thanks for the story and for reminding me of my own convictions and desire to make this world a little better...Lana

Laura on

Wow, I lived this with you and I am awed by the story. It is so great to read it fresh from your perspective nearly 2 years later. Life changing for sure. How cool would it be to go back? I mean hot, really hot. Ha! Thanks for the reminder of a life without fear. L

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