What does reality hitting sound like? I’ve always thought that was a funny expression, when reality hits.
Is it always a dull thud? A sharp intake of breath? Silence?
I’ve come to find that when reality hits me here it sounds differently each time, distinct notes reverberating like little exclamation points in my soul.
Often when reality crashes it comes down in a wave of voices, a beautiful cacophony of sounds. Maybe it’s the voice of a student telling me that all he wants is to be able to speak his own language, live in his own country. Or the voice of a woman telling us the only thing she isn’t afraid of is guns and bullets because she’s grown up with them flying over her head. Or how about the man who reveals that he has a daughter back in Burma whom he wouldn’t recognize if he passed in the street because he was imprisoned for almost a decade when she was only a little baby and then forced to flee Burma afterward, not having seen her since.
It’s stories like that that give one pause. That bring me back to the fact that yes, my life here is full of love and beauty, but the reason I’m here is because life has not been kind to many of the people living here in Mae Sot. And maybe the biggest blow comes when one realizes that these stories are commonplace here. Stories of villages getting burned down, of the loss of family and friends, of the frustration of seeing Burma, their beloved country, struggle for democracy for so long without success.
And that is always where it comes back to. All the stories, all the blips of reality, are reminders of this bigger picture. Of a country and a people’s struggle for democracy, for freedom, for good education and healthcare, for a normal life.
And that’s what most people I’ve met want. Just some normalcy, some simplicity. One man I was talking to said that he wishes his life wasn’t so complicated, that he could just be with his wife and live and teach and not have any stories to tell.
And when reality hits, whether it is the sound of a voice or the sound of a whimper of a man laying in a hospital bed, face and hands charred black, eyes covered with gauze, pains coming from now ghost fingers that touched upon that land mine, that is what one thinks about — that bigger picture, those big, daunting problems that seem too vast to conquer.
And one has to wonder, what then must we do? Going to the refugee camp, seeing the miles and miles of makeshift huts built on top of one another, of little children flying kites made of of sticks and plastic bags… what then must we do?
I think about all of the sad things I’ve seen and heard about since coming to Mae Sot, about the sad reality of life here and in Burma for so many people, about famine and drought and war going on all over the world, and it’s sometimes hard not to feel overwhelmed. And then reality hits again, but this time it’s in the sound of the laughter of school children, and in the thwack of a football going across a pitch as the young girls at one school run after it, thrilled that they get the chance to play, and the sweet notes of one of the boys practicing the guitar.
And when that reality hits I think about this project and what it is exactly trying to do. What then must we do? We must add our light to the sum of light. We have to simply try and help those we can, those we see right in front of us, because what else can we do?
By teaching at these schools we’re not overthrowing the junta, or freeing Burma, or taking away all the suffering in these people’s lives. But we’re doing what we can with what is right in front of us. We’re adding light to the lives of at least a few children, a few people, a few communities, in hopes that others are doing the same and that one day the light we make will be strong enough to reach even the darkest corners of suffering.
“Love You Teacher”
The two persons although they were in the same earth but lived in a very far place respectively have met because of destiny. Those two persons are teacher and pupil. Teacher and pupil are always together like good and bad things. If the teacher is the sky, pupil will be a cloud. Because the clouds can’t become anywhere except the sky.
I’ve received not only knowledge but also warmly love from you. So, I wanna request to you ‘Please accept my respect’. Moreover, thanks for your cool shadow. You are also a guide for me who teach the way to get success. I think I’ve never forgotten your words, your care and so on. As we know, it is so difficult to decorate a thing to be beautiful. But all teachers are always decorating their pupils’ lives to be successful. So, we can’t live without paying respect to our warm and hospitable teachers.
If the teacher is the sea, the pupil will be a wave. Because the sea always accept the big waves or the strong waves. Anyway, I love you so much “teacher”.
And when I read that, I felt like I could have died happy.
The past few days have been nothing short of incredible and as I write this I wonder why it’s some big surprise that they were. You’d think I’d have gotten used to Mae Sot dazzling me by now, but no.
And I know that it’s just things that people here take for granted that maybe give me so much joy, just as things that I take for granted back home would certainly make one of my students happy, but that doesn’t change the fact that my heart feels like it’s literally bursting these days.
On Sunday I went to a sort of Buddhist Sunday school at Knowledge Zone and it just blew my mind. The students listen to Buddhist preaching in the morning, then break for lunch, and then walk over to a nearby monastery to wash this massive reclining Buddha and the surrounding area for the monks. They take out at least two hours of their day every single Sunday to clean the monastery. It was like seeing something out of a movie, (maybe like Sound of Music), where there was a man scaling the top of this giant Buddha in order to wash it’s head while smaller boys carried buckets of water to and fro, and some of the girls were sweeping the floor around the pagoda and you could see puppies playing in the background and there was music playing from the monastery and it was all just incredible. And getting the privilege to participate in this was just so meaningful to me. And afterward getting to listen to more preaching on the roof of the school and meditating with the students… it may be something that they do every Sunday, (which I think is incredibly kind of them), but for me it felt like one of the coolest things I’ve ever done in my life.
And then from the Sunday school to the usual Burmese tea shop with the loveliest company. And just the fact that I can call this tea shop the “usual one!” Not to mention what amazing people I’ve come to know and am lucky enough to frequent it with.
And I don’t know, since Sunday my week has just been getting better and better. Another crazy flood on Monday, so no school, but plenty of eel catching in the street. And Tuesday another, (surprise), rain day from school, but getting to spend the whole day with my students — taking two of them to Mae Sot to get them out of Mae Pa for a little, hanging out with the girls in the dorm and listening to music, spending reading hours at night with Mg Soe translating poetry from Burmese to English, having the boys teach my funny phrases in Burmese and laughing harder than I have in weeks with them, going to sleep with Jar Su Li next to me looking over and saying, “Goodnight, teacher,” with one of those congestion-clearing nasal sprays stuck up her nose and laughing about how ridiculous it looked for 10 minutes, (and then her subconsciously getting me back in the middle of the night by swinging her arm right into my face).
Even the little things really brighten up my days like then going to the tea shop with some students the next morning and just starting off the day right. And then getting that letter from my student, it just put me over the top! How could I not feel like the most blessed woman on the planet?! And after school on Wednesday I played football with the girls, (we’re finally starting a girls team), and afterward one of the younger girls told me that she was so, so happy, (and you could tell she meant it), because she never gets to play, and really, she’s quite good. And then helping La Sam pull out the nets from his mini catfish farm and helping the boys count his fish… what is this life that I lead?!? It’s an absolutely jam-packed, crazy one that I can’t get enough of.
And that’s just things at BH and Knowledge Zone. The kids at Hle Bee get cuter every time I see them. Last week I had sprained my ankle and when one little boy saw he literally jumped a wall in the classroom, took off into the jungle behind and came back with a fist full of weeds that he told me to mash up to put on my “wounded” foot.
…. I live in Mae Sot, Thailand and I am the luckiest girl in the world.
Two little girls in the KG-A class at BH came up to me yesterday and gave me a belated birthday present that consisted of a drawing they did, a little worn out handbag, a new, sharpened pencil and some Snoopy dog figurines. They write with little stubs of pencils because their parents can’t afford to buy them new ones and they don’t get tons of little handbags or toys for their birthdays. Essentially, they gave me everything they had, all that they could possibly give. How absolutely and genuinely beautiful and selfless and kind are these children? I know they don’t have much, but I’ve never encountered richer people in my life. Makes me feel like I’m the luckiest person in the world.