Tag Archives: mountains

Jakajan Hunts and Burmese Refugees

Tonight I write.

The heat of the day has fled with the coming of the darkness. The sky is clear tonight, with a bright moon coming up in the east. I know it is east even though my head tells me it is north.
The last few evenings have been busy, with little time to spare for things like writing. Kru Paeng asked me if I could make cookies for the children for their lunch. Enough so each can have two, she said. That is 160 cookies. By the time I finished four nights of baking, I had the recipe down in my head and cooking over a fire much more efficiently than the first time I did it. No more burnt cookies. Or barely. A brand-new thicker pan donated to the school from visitors on Sunday helped a lot. Still it took a long time to make them, and it didn’t help matters when Captain Joe came over and hinted broadly that he would like some. They were served at lunch this morning and were a hit.

So, now that the cookies are past, I write.

The days are still lengthening, and the heat gets stronger with each passing day. The smoke has lessened which lets the sun’s rays come through. In the afternoon, the teacher’s office which is made of wood gets breathlessly hot. There is not enough electricity generated by the solar panels to run a fan, I guess, so there is not even the comfort of a fan. At night I sleep with the windows wide open, careless to the fact that a loose buffalo might stick its head in the window some night, as it did to a previous teacher. The cats take advantage of the open window and jump in and out during all hours of the night.

Last week I experienced the danger of the mountain slopes for myself. I was planning to visit one of my third grader’s home since she had been begging me to come for a long time. On the way, I stopped to pick up Dauk Gulab, another third grader, and was driving up a hill to the home of another student, Wah Meh, to take her along as well. When I first looked at the slope, it looked doable, but it was longer than I had reckoned. I was driving in 2nd gear on my bike and the engine started dragging. I knew from previous experience that I didn’t want it to stop on me, especially with a rider, so I shifted down into first gear. This was a mistake and I realized it even as I did it. Since I was revving the bike to keep it going in second gear, it now shot up in the front, and we flipped over backwards (or so it seemed. I don’t really think we went over totally backwards but that was the feeling I got.) This was the first time I had ever really dumped my bike on the slopes, even though I had had several very close calls before. What bothered me most was my rider. We were both unhurt and she was cheerily brave about it all, but I felt a lump of guilt and fear gathering in my stomach all evening long. It helped to find out later from Wah Meh that her mom had dumped her bike there as well, and Kru Taum told me that he had run out of steam on the same slope before. There was something funny with my bike now, though, when I shifted. The next day I looked it over and discovered that the bar where you rest your feet had shifted. This was coming in contact with the foot shift when shifting down. Kru Taum led the way to Kai Muk’s house where Kai Muk’s dad brought out a heavy tool and whacked it into place.

The cicadas are here. They come in full blast and their noise in the morning when I wake up around 6 is deafening. They are known to be a delicacy and come at a high price in markets on the plains. One school day I tried fruitlessly to help the 4th graders catch them using nets and plastic bottles on sticks. I didn’t catch even one. The other students crowded around talked all at once, as they usually do, “You want to catch jakajan (cicadas)? Then all you need to do is make a paste out of sticky rice flour and paste it on a piece of wood and then the cicadas will come and stick on them.” This sounded more confusing then ever, but I decided to try it out. Pa De Bue and Itim and Yaut came to help me make the paste. We mixed some sticky rice flour with water and boiled and stirred it until it was a thick, sticky paste. Then carrying the still hot pot between Itim and Pa De Bue, off we went. We started off with their being only about 4 of us, but as we walked down the road to the bridge, we kept on collecting more and more schoolboys, until there were probably about 10 of us altogether. I felt like we should be waving a flag and blowing on a bugle, such was the excitement in the air. First, we marched down to a dry creekbed and spread some paste on pieces of wood and some trees. Sure enough, soon there were some jakajans stuck to the paste. “It’s not enough,” they all proclaimed, so we trekked over a buffalo pasture to another stream where the jakajans had congregated en masse. Again, we pasted the white substance onto sticks and walked along the creek bed, thrusting the sticks into areas where the jakajans sat. Pretty soon, our sticks were buzzing loudly. We had taken along two plastic bottles with some water in them and before we knew it, the bottles were full of very sticky, very disturbed cicadas.
Even though we could have caught hundreds more, we called it quits and headed back to the house. There several of the boys and I washed them and plucked the wings off the creatures. Then we mixed them with some seasonings and Yaut fried up the first batch. They seriously were really good.

The situation across the border in Myanmar gets continually worse ever since the coup in February when the army took over the previous government. Last week, Captain Joe brought over a report in English that the Myanmar consulate had written and sent to the northern parts of Thailand. He couldn’t make sense of it, so I summarized it. Basically, it was a defense of what the Myanmar army was doing in Myanmar against the protesters and those in opposition with the new government. Some people say they can hear the guns sometimes from across the border in Kayah State. The Burmese army has again shut off most of the internet service so those from Saohin who use Burmese sim cards for their internet are now without any service. (We are close enough to the border and far enough away from Thai phone service that many of the villagers, as well as the army camp at the border crossing buy Burmese sim cards for their phone service). This cutoff has resulted in the army officers needing to use the internet provided by the school and the police station. Last week we heard news that 5 important citizens from Kayah State were asking to cross the border into Thailand since they were in danger. In previous years the crossing was simply done but with Covid19 it is a much more serious endeavor. The army allowed them to cross over and right now, the refugees are quarantining in someone’s field. A day or so later, another request was made to allow 30 more citizens cross over. I haven’t heard yet if they would let them or not. I find it very interesting to be at this spot at this point in time. I have followed some of the conflicts in Burma for years and am very interested in the conflicts between the army and many of the minority groups.
I would love to add pictures, but its quite impossible right now with the slow internet.
This coming Saturday is the graduation ceremony. I will be heading down to Mae Sariang on Monday, Lord willing.

Abide with Me

Abide with me, fast falls the eventide,

Light bleeds from the evening sky, and I know that
Somewhere the morning dawns. The wind rises,
Rustling the skirts of the evening’s brittle drought, the dust
Stirs.

The darkness deepens, Lord with me abide;

Smoke grays the hills and smuts colors
Of the sunset that stream on the parched forest;
The heat off the day flees on silent feet, the dusk
Blankets.

When other helpers fail and comforts flee

Birdcalls echo from deepening shadows, and rasps
Of cricket’s melodies rise. Smoke from the evening fire
Drifts, and rice cooks, bubbling from the blackened pot. Fire
Crackles.

Help of the helpless, O abide with me

Night falls, the deepening watches calling forth the ache
Of wonder and hope and longing. Stars in their glory
Glisten and promise. This is the hope, the watch, the story
I live.

The Stuff of Dreams

Maps are the stuff of dreams-

The remains of journeys past

The visions of journeys to come;

Whispering of woodfire smoke in early morning mist,

Of roosters crowing in crisp mountain air,

Of smiles flashing in dark faces.

They speak of vistas that lie beyond, beyond

Of mountains where unknown fires burn,

And roads that run like veins in twisted valleys.

Maps, they are the stuff of dreams.

Random Snapshots

There are a number of things in my mind that I keep on thinking would be fun to write about. However, they don’t really fit into one logical theme, so here are some random snapshots of life in the past month or so.

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  1. We killed a snake. It was in front of the house one afternoon after my sister and I got home. We were positive it was a poisonous snake since it was lifting its head above the ground and spitting. Melissa stood inside the kitchen window and entertained it while the rest of us tried to figure out what to do or hid in the house or climbed onto the small shelter outside the house. Sara (my sister) and I armed ourselves with hoes and sticks, but didn’t dare go close since we were afraid that it was a cobra and would go after us if we attempted to go after it. I called our landlord and he sent over two of his workers. The one man took a look at the snake, grabbed Sara’s pole from her hand and with one fell swoop, knocked the snake on the head. It was an immediate and sure death. He then, with great mirth, draped it around his neck and told us that it was a harmless water snake and he was going to go home and eat it. A few minutes later as we stood still shaking and chattering from the episode, I was distracted by something falling out of a tree beside me. It took a few seconds for it to soak in that it was another snake! I was still holding the hoe and took a swipe at it, managing to chop off the latter third of it before it escaped into the canal. This one ended up being mildly poisonous. It is unnerving for us to discover and kill a snake we believe is poisonous; it is horrifying for us to find two snakes in the space of 15 minutes; and it is entirely and unbelievably traumatic for one of those two snakes to fall from the sky.DSC05794.JPG
  2. I made donuts twice, once for the IGo students and once for Melissa’s farewell. Thumping dough and making good things to eat are both things that bring me into my happy place.
  3. I went out to eat with a gentleman. The ladies in my immediate household jumped to wild conclusions when I told them my plans, and then were crestfallen when I told them that the said gentleman was about three times my senior. I was helping an elderly Korean missionary edit a book of his and then went to dinner with him to discuss the progress of the book. However,  I was struggling with a variety of things on the evening I met him, and God really cared for me in a special way that night. As I walked into the restaurant, which is a restaurant that caters to the foreign population in Chiang Mai, I caught the notes of a familiar song being sung. I was blown away. It was a song of which the lyrics had been “my song” for the past few months, when the breaking inside seemed too much to handle. Normally a Christian song would not have been playing in a place like this. Here are the lyrics:

When the shadow won’t leave
When the battle won’t stop
And every breathe that you breathe
Takes all that you’ve got
When you wonder if you’re always
Gonna feel this way
Hear the Lord of heaven say…

Ch. I will hold you when you’re breaking
Like a father and a friend
And I will carry you through darkness
Till we see the sun again
So rest your head and cry your tears
Know that I am with you here
When you can’t lift that weight
Believe me when I say…
I will

I know you’re feeling overwhelmed
Before the day even begins
But I can see beyond the now
This is not how your story ends
And when you’re at your weakest
Oh I’ve never been more strong
So let me be the one you’re leaning on…

  1. I was leaving for a supper appointment, and needed to take my laptop with me, but I couldn’t find it. I was getting that familiar feeling of some mysterious evil force being infinitely against me. (This feeling occurs usually when I am trying to find something or untangling something messy). Finally, I found it– in the freezer where I left it.
  2. It rained. It really did. Heavenly Corridor_190408_0023.jpg
  3. I went to the heavenly corridor three times in a week. The heavenly corridor is a mountain ridge that looks out over a valley to the left and a valley to the right on Doi Pui mountain. It’s quiet, lonely, beautiful and cool after the heat of Chiang Mai city. I had the privilege of taking my mentoring group there one Tuesday, and the next Saturday at the last minute spurned my homework and drove up again. I sat, cried, journaled, prayed and listened to the silence. And as I did that, some of my anger and grief that had been bottled up somehow came out. The problem with going up the mountain is not wanting to come down. I left, promising myself to be back the next day. I went back the next day with friends.
  4. I said goodbye. To a lot of people. I said goodbye to my mentoring group, I said goodbye to students I had been acquainted with for the past 4-8 months, I said goodbye to my housemate and dear friend, Melissa. I will say goodbye to longtime friends tomorrow, and another family in a month and another friend in July. I said the hardest goodbye to my sister. On the evening Sara left, I left our annual IGo retreat that was going on, and we bought our favorite Thai meal at the Big C market and went to Serene Lake. We watched the sunset and talked and were quiet and played harmonica and made hearts of our hands against the fading sky. And wished it wasn’t our last night together.DSC05649DSC05657.JPG
  5. I had my last class of my second year of school! Now, only an exam and brushing up some final papers!
  6. I climbed into the freezer. It was so hot outside (and inside) and I wanted to see if I could. I could.
  7. In three hours, I get to go meet a longtime friend at the airport. She’ll spend a few weeks with me and we’ll go to Vietnam to see another friend. We’ll drive some mountains and lose ourselves several times and have long, late night talks with each other. And I will rest.

December

Christmas break from school has been many things. Relaxing, no. But interesting, educational, and enlightening, yes. It’s hard to believe that I am in my third week of Christmas break already.

I had been hoping to be able to get into one of the refugee camps along the Thai/Burmese border over my Christmas break. This has been a dream of mine for a long time, but I’ve never had the time off long enough to do it, whether it was time off from work or from school. This didn’t work out for this break, though, so I was left with a variety of other options.

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One of my first ideas was to make donuts to sell over my Christmas break. Has it been successful? Not sure how to answer that question. Yes, I have made some money, but it’s been more tiring than I expected. However, it’s been delightfully refreshing to my brain to be able to do something with my hands while letting my brain wander, pray, or listen to poetry or music.

Then there was our Christmas party with our Thai cell group from church. We had it at our house and invited friends outside of the group, played some games, shared a short version of the Christmas story, and ate tons of amazing food.

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I also picked up several hours of teaching during the break. A friend knew of a young woman who was wanting to study English. Next one of her friends wanted to study as well. So, along with some of my regular teaching, I also had some extra one on one teaching. I have loved getting to know these students; they are young ladies who are very interested in learning English and are lots of fun.

My friend Amy is back visiting in Thailand too, after moving home last year. Getting to see her again and have some good chats with her have been fun.

There are several highlights that especially stand out from my Christmas vacation. It’s not over yet, so some more highlights might still pop out. However, in looking back, I can almost narrow it down to three main favorites: the EMA student graduation, my trip to a Kachin village in Northern Chiang Dao with a college friend, and a 4 day bike trip into the mountains that my sister and I did. I hope to blog more extensively about these in the next week or so, so look for some posts on these in the future.

But for now, here are a few peeks of photos.

EMA graduation:

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Baan Mai Samakki, the only Kachin village in Thailand:

Dten Rom Manao is a festival that happens once every several years.

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Not far from the Kachin village is a Chinese village, Arunothai, about 15 minutes from the Thai/Burmese border. While these people live in Thailand, their children’s first language is Chinese and they still practice many aspects of Chinese culture. Below is a boy from that village.

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My friend’s grandfather beside their fire.

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A sister trip from Chiang Mai city to Doi Intanon, to Khun Yuam to Mae La Noi, and from there to Mae Chaem:

Coffee made on the fire at Baan Mae Klang Luang, a Karen village on Doi Intanon.

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Drinking more coffee on Doi Intanon.

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A sister shot early in the morning as mists were rising from a valley close to Mae La Noi, Mae Hong Son.

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On a morning jaunt through the mountains of Mae Chaem at the Karen homestay on the last day of our trip.

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Remember

I live in a world where vehicles crowd

Each other in unending race;

Streetlights outshine the stars at night

And smog smothers the young moon’s face;

The air is heavy with the scent of fumes

Even at night the din rarely dies;

Yet I find my way in this rush of life

Where myriads of sound from the city rise.

 

And sometimes they ask me, do you remember

The elms in the winter night?

The falling of snowflakes in the muffled dusk

And the way they dance in the light?

Or the way the mountains look in the rain

When cat-footed and gray comes the mist,

And one by one the lights blink on

Solitary beacons, alone, fog-kissed.

 

No, I have not forgotten, and the memory

Comes quick and gold and keen,

And I know when wind shakes the elms with snow

For I feel a stirring, a glad unseen;

And when the mist comes creeping up the mountainside

And the lights gleam on, a pain,

A beautiful pain, chokes, and I can forget

Only as the wind can forget the rain.

 

October 3 (for Creative Writing class)

featured photo credit: pixabay.com

Voiceless

Words burn within me

To tell all the others

The beauty I saw today.

The mountain’s high crest

The forest’s red haze

The foam of the river’s spray

 

A piercing of light

A wind tossed swallow

The mist of a mountain’s shroud

The boldness of color

The caress of a breeze

The wisps of a wind scattered cloud

 

But the deepest things

That are caught in my soul

In muted aching cry

Are the flash of a smile

The gleam of teeth

The light in a villager’s eye

 

A faint shy smile

A word exchanged

And laughter quick and keen

These are the treasures

That I long to share

From all that today I have seen.

 

Originally written in February of 2017, this poem came to mind after my day today.

The Image of You

 

The following poem was previously

published for the first time in Vibrant Girl Volume 3 Issue 1

 

I have wandered among windswept hills

Almost to where the sky touched me

I have danced in prairies, gold and green

Where wheat waves run like amber sea

I have roamed the lonesome mountain ridges

I have watched a hundred morns unfold

And flung my soul in breathless praise

At sight of sunset’s tawny gold

 

But not only beauty draws my heart

To sing about your glory–

Dark eyes aglow in unfeigned joy,

The trembling words of soul-saved story,

Healing tears in a Godspun moment

Quiet knowing, laughter light

A dream of joy, a hunger shared,

Breaking of walls, giving of sight

 

Oh, yes, I have praised you in the windswept hills

Under a sky of brilliant blue

Yet my heart sings too in a soul -filled life

In a smile, a tear, an image of You 

The Language of Silence

There is no voice that touches my heart

As much as no voice at all

The silence of sky on mountain peak

The whisper of snowflakes, winter wind’s call

 

So many times have I stood on a street

Lost in the teeming mobs of man

When the depths of my soul are muffled and mute

Smothered for the silence of a far off land

 

Where silence is the language everyone speaks

Where it rises like mists from mountain sod

Where it cloaks me with peace; while I sit and cry

Because silence for me is the voice of God.

 

-October 29, 2017

photo credit: pixabay