This weeks’ musings have no particular focus. I am what is generally labelled an “over-thinker” and being out of my old life, my old familiar surroundings, with, it has to be said, far fewer demands on my time than I had 6 month’s ago, I’ve found myself observing a lot more as well as thinking a lot more. The thinking bit is not necessarily a bonus! I’m much more content when I have plenty to do, things to accomplish and so on. I’m sure that will sound familiar to many people, and it’s probably a result of our conditioning in the west, and also an age thing!
However, being the type of person who decided to make a virtue of necessity I’m choosing to see the amount of mental “downtime” I’ve had here as a positive thing. I may have mentioned before that I am not a fan of social media but I’m more than willing to accept that without the ease of communication afforded by messenger, whatsapp and the like I would have found the first few weeks a lot harder to cope with. I do find now, though, that stuff that seemed important when I was in England no longer gets to me in the same way. This is my way of letting you know that the stuff I’m about to ramble on about is not going to shake your world!
Apologies for the poor quality of the photo. It was taken after my evening class so the lighting is from the overhead street light. I love this “four on a bike” thing! Health and Safety? What’s that then? This is Khin Khin being picked up after class by her husband and two kids on a Honda 250. It’s quite unusual in only one respect and that is that all four of them are wearing crash helmets. I’ve seen five people on a bike and, got to admit, it did make my stomach lurch when one of the five is a tiny baby held in one arm loosely over the adult’s hip. No crash helmets, and possibly the week’s shopping balanced precariously in front of the driver for good measure.
Its also very common to see massive loads of… well whatever, vegetables, kitchen ware, cans of beer, bottles of water, piled high on the motorbike and held on with bungee cords. Bungee cords are very popular here. I saw someone on a push bike the other day with a load of bananas strapped on to the back with bungee cord. I also saw a tiny plastic chair strapped on a similar way to provide a seat for a toddler. Part of me is horrified, another part of me is full of admiration for the ingenuity that this represents. I’ve not had the nerve to ride a motorbike whilst I’ve been here, but I would be the first to admit that this has curtailed my life in some ways.
I make no apologies by the way. In my younger days I would quite happily razz up and down the M1 in various sized vans and trucks, picking up heavy loads of fruit and vegetables and delivering to our various shops around Derbyshire. I just have a “thing” about scooters, mopeds and motorbikes, possibly because I have lost friends in accidents on these in the past. I’ve been driving for 40 years so you’d think I would be able to handle a 125 or a 250 with ease wouldn’t you? I do know that if I decide to return I will definitely make sure that I get some lessons or practise on a small 2 wheeled motorised form of transport first!
What Will You Miss Most?
Good question, and one that people are already asking me so I need to give it some thought. These people for a start:
I do have their permission to put these on here. These are my Mae La students and I will miss them very much. I am confident that they will all pass their exam on March 16th, and I truly hope that they will all be able to fulfil their dreams and plans for the future. Some will be Social Workers, some will be Teachers, some want to be Medics and others want to be involved in Community Building back in Karen State.
I’ll also miss all the people I’ve met and the friends I’ve made in Mae Sot. It has been a truly amazing and rewarding experience getting to know different people, being involved in other people’s lives (and dramas) and finding out at least a little about the fantastic work that other people are doing here on the border. In a lot of ways we a typical “ex pat” type group of people but I choose to see that as a positive thing. It’s very common to read/hear sneering comments about “ex-pats” anywhere in the world and I understand that to a certain extent. Us Brits, for example, are notoriously arrogant about the language thing, and I feel that all Westerners harbour at least a few ideas about the way things “should” be done. On the other hand, these communities can offer immense support and comfort to people who have no experience of the way of life or the language. I know that my own experience would not have been half as enjoyable if I hadn’t met fellow NGOs who are ready, willing and able to offer advice and support. Once I get permission I’ll get some photos and we can have a rogues’ gallery on here!
I will not miss the following:
Mosquitoes! (I hate them with an almost psychopathic virulence)
Always having dirty feet/hard skin on my feet.
Street dogs who seem to think that anyone on a bicycle is fair game
Industrial-strength plastic packaging that is almost impossible to open, on virtually everything you buy, including random things like lip balm.
That’s about it really. Not bad.
Time to go now. No doubt I’ll come up with many more things to go into these lists, the “What I will Miss” one at least.
Til next time,