Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Then the Rain Came

I sat. Sweating.
Partially from the heat, partially from the expectation.
I sat in the chair, in a room I'd sat in a million times before, but this time I was not the student.
I was in fact, the teacher.
Eight expectant faces looked up at me.
"Mingalaba Saya Ma." (Hello Teacher.)
"So uh... What do I do?" I glanced to my left. Hin Bai sat nursing her three month old baby. She had been my Burmese teacher until Theresa came.
"Just talk. They want to learn to speak English."

I gathered my wits and began a weird exercise. I made things up as I went along.
I think it went well. They expect me to come back next week, so it couldn't have been that bad.
And I gave them homework... like a good teacher does.

When 6:00 came we switched back to Burmese.
"Will you follow us? We're going to a birthday party."
"Sure." I replied.

We hopped onto motorbikes and took off for the local migrant school where the Birthday girl lived.
As we drove I noted the peculiar color of the sky. Kind of a muggy, light pink color. Then the rain came. It was that kind of rain that soaks you to the bone. By the time we got to the school, I was drenched. I stood outside her door, my jeans dripping onto the hallway floor.
"Katie!" She cried out. "Come in! I have some clothes you can wear!"
She ushered me into her bedroom and carefully selected a longi and t-shirt. I peeled off my jeans and shirt. She helped me tie the traditional Chin longi and led me back to the living room. In those few moments I felt completely transformed. I came in as a Westerner but I emerged as... I'm not sure what. Some people say Karen, while others think... who knows. My looks baffle people here.
We sat on the floor and gave her encouragement. She was turning 58 that day, and we each took a turn reading scripture and giving her words of wisdom. We prayed over her. I sat on the floor, suddenly feeling warm. But, it was a different warm from before. It didn't bring sweat to my brow, but it brought comfort to my heart. Here, with dry clothes and surrounded by these people, I felt so at home. We joked with each other in Burmese and they showed their obvious enjoyment in the fact that I could make conversation in Burmese.

I rode my motorbike home in my borrowed clothes, the soaking American clothes in my basket. As I drove past the restaurant I often eat at with friends, I glanced in and saw three of my closest Burmese speaking friends. I turned around and circled back. As I walked in I retied the skirt and they applauded. They appreciated my Burmese-ness I think.
I know I will never fully be Burmese. I have a slight advantage with my Asian looks , but I can never know what it's like to be from Burma. I think I'll have to be content with this. I'm glad I have friends who are so welcoming, who want me to be close to them, who want me to understand their lives and culture.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Top 10 Things I LOVE about my Life

1) My friends

God has really blessed me with some awesome and lasting relationships here in Thailand. The people at Compasio have become more like my family than my co workers. We love spending time together; eating, watching movies, playing guitar, going on motorbike adventures, going into the community, sitting in tea shops, and talking. We have an amazing time together.

2) My lifestyle

There's something so satisfying to living simply. I live in a one room house with 3 girls. We don't have a TV. We don't have refrigerator. We don't have a microwave. We don't even have a shower. But we have each other. (cheesy? sorry about that) We spend our evenings sitting in the living room, talking, dancing, and laughing. We walk to the market everyday to buy food to cook for dinner. We take bucket showers and hand wash our clothes. Sometimes we'll watch a movie on my laptop, but our best memories have been from just sitting together and enjoying each other's company.

3) Being close to Burma

Burma is full of heartbreak. Burma is full of pain. But, there is something so appealing about people from Burma. They have this light, this care free way of laughing and loving. They are endearing. I've never met people like this before. My closest and most dearly loved friends are from Burma, and even though we are worlds apart in our backgrounds and looks, they have welcomed me in and accepted me.

4) The Food

I have a plethora of AMAZING food in reach at all times. That can account for why I've gained so much weight. (lol) THAI FOOD. BURMESE FOOD. CHIN FOOD. WESTERN FOOD. MMMMMMMM

and it's so cheap.

5) Transportation

want to go to Chiang Mai? Hop on a bus. you'll be there in 5 hours. it costs $6.

want to go to Bangkok? Hop on a night bus. When you wake up you'll be there. Only $10.

I rely on my trusty motorbike to get me around town. You can fit 2-3 people, though I've seen up to 5 people squished onto one seat.

6) The Diversity of my town

American. Australian. Japanese. Korean. Philipino. Karen. Chin. Kachin. Chinese. Burmese. Thai. Akah. Lahoo. There are so many people groups here! So many languages. So many styles. It's so fun.

7) The Mae Sot Garbage Dump

I know I know. You've heard about the garbage dump a lot but I LOVE IT. The people there are truly fantastic. They're so welcoming. I love going there and being recognized. I love being invited into someone's home to sit and chat. I would move there if I could.

8) The Beauty

It's rainy season right now. Everything is this unbelievable shade of green. The mountains of Burma loom in the distance and rice fields are in full bloom. Dark clouds threaten on the horizon and lighting rips the sky. Flowers bloom, bright and beautiful. I'm often stopped dead in my tracks by the beauty of this place. If you were to ride your motorbike 45 minutes out of town you would find a handful of waterfalls, amazing beyond belief.

9) The Markets

What do you want to buy? Clothes? Food? Flowers? Makeup? Precious stones? Live frogs and turtles? Go to the market. Mae Sot alone has the border market, Sunday market, Burmese outdoor market, Saturday walking temple market, Friday/Saturday highway market, and day time alley market. So what did you need again?

10) Familiarity and Community

Last time I went to Chiang Mai, I felt such a disconnect. I felt like a tourist. I realized how much I value being familiar with people. There are people I've never spoken too, but I recognize them as I drive down the road. I can smile and wave at people I know.

There's one woman who walks around Mae Sot collecting garbage. She's so dark, a Burmese woman descended from Indians. At some point I began to make eye contact with her as I passed her on the road. The eye contact turned to a smile, the smile transformed to a wave. One day I saw her sitting, waiting on a corner. I went to her a we talked for the first time. I bought her a water and yogurt and I learned about her life, her children. That's what I love about Mae Sot. Strangers become friends if you see them often enough.

So. There you have it. I have never been more satisfied or felt more complete in my life. I feel so competely blessed by God, that all I want to do is have my life be a blessing to Him in return.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


It's me. It's been almost a month since I've written anything new. It's partly because I don't want to waste your time with junk but also partially because I've been really busy. So... just be warned that I have no spectacular story of heroism, just a quick update to let you know that I'm still alive.

In the past month... (bullet points if I may?)
  • I moved! My two friends I were living with and I parted ways, Pim moved to Bangkok and Steph moved into a place closer to the office. I had actually been feeling like I wanted to be more immersed in Burmese so this came as a perfect opportunity. I was hooked up with 3 Chin girls from Church and I moved in. We have a really great time. They are really sweet and patient with helping me learn Burmese. I feel like I've improved so much already.

In the past week....
  • My old old OLD friend from childhood came to Thailand for a quick visit. Amanda and I have been friends since age 8. It was so cool to hang out with her and show her my life here.

Wednesday I drove up to Chiang Mai

Friday we came back down to Mae Sot

Saturday we went back to Chiang Mai

and Monday I came back to Mae Sot. I am tired just typing that...
To bad Thailand is so ugly... what a bust having to drive back and forth ;)

In the past day...
  • Compasio has begun an internship training for Burmese community engagement workers. Each week focuses on a different topic, this week we are learning about the Father Heart of God. What an amazing seminar! It's something powerful to know, truly know in your heart, that the God of the universe is your Father and loves you with a perfect love.

In the past hour...
  • I woke up, took a quick bucket shower, got dressed, and went to 7-11 to buy more minutes for my cell phone. As I was getting on my motor bike to go to the office, I spotted 2 of my friends who were stopped by the police. I quick ran over, for some reason it helps to have a western face present when 2 illegal Burmese people are stopped by the police. I stood there with them, and waited as the policeman continued to direct traffic. They ended up with just a ticket.
  • I'm gonna scarf down this bowl of raman noodles and quick rush over to the training.
Hope everyone is doing well... and by everyone I mean the people who read this... like you mom. Hi.

Off to be wrapped in the arms of my loving Father and to use the blessings He's given me to be a blessing to those around. Care to join me?