Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Thailand 2012 - Part 6

Myanmar, Markets and Motion Sickness

It's pretty much the end of the trip and I'm only having time to write now because we've been so busy!

Let's start with Myanmar.
We went to Myanmar to see the drop in centre. However, going to Myanmar is a sketchy thing.....

Myanmar Entry Permit.
First, they take your passport away when you enter. You get a temporary card that has your picture and some information on it and that you keep with you. This document will get your passport back when you want to leave. Next, they have specific tourist zones that you are allowed to be in. Myanmar has a really sketchy past and is full of things better left unsaid. We had heard about a tourist group who had gone in to see the garbage dump and help the families that live there. One of the drivers of the tuk-tuk had been a spy from the government... Needless to say, we did a few "touristy" things before heading to our intended destination.

We drove past the garbage dump so we could at least see the conditions some of the families kids at the home came from. For me, since I had worked at the garbage dump in Dominican Republic last summer, it wasn't as hard hitting as it was for those who hadn't seen it before. Natasha, who rode in the same tuk-tuk as I, really found it hard to swallow. It's a tough thing to drive past hills of garbage, some of it even burning, and then see houses in the background with kids playing. It seems like two things that should not go together.

Outside of the Chinese Temple.
After that we visited the Chinese temple then heading off to the BIG market. This market had everything knock-off you could think of! You could see where these kids at the home were coming from and it was so sad to see. After time of shopping we had lunch and then went to the drop in centre.

Kru Nam Speaking at the Centre.
At the drop in centre we chatted with 2 employees who told us all about the programs at the centre and about how their journey's led them there. Kru Nam also came and answered any questions we had. It was so awesome to hear that the goal isn't to send kids to the children's home, the goal is to help the kids where they are, with the situations they are in, and to offer them alternatives. Other things I was pumped to hear about include hearing about the drug rehabilitation program. They help the moms get off of drugs and then teach them skills they can use to make money instead of selling drugs and other means that aren't the best.

One thing that did make me a little sad was the fact that there is no counsellor that comes in to the children's home and drop-in centre to speak with the kids about what they are going through and how they are coping. Kru Nam said that the staff do a lot of counselling with the kids but that there is no actual counsellor/psychiatrist that comes in and helps the kids mentally with things. In my opinion, I feel that is something necessary and would love to see either through donations for funding, or even someone who is skilled and would want to volunteer.

The staff at the drop in centre provided us with delicious snacks (deep fried banana, mango sticky rice, tea,etc) and allowed us to browse the centre. They also showed us the reading materials they make up for the kids. Since there are no reading materials aimed at slavery, sexual exploitation, safe sex, etc the drop in centre makes their own! It was so cool to see that they are committed to educating the kids so that they can make smart choices in life. They also let us buy some of the bracelets, change purses and other knick-knacks made by the moms and kids to raise income. I'm pretty sure we all bought something! It's way better than anything you could find at the market and the sentimental value makes it more valuable than anything else you could ever find.

That evening Kru Nam joined us for dinner. We had the chance to ask her questions and learn more about her. She mentioned quite a few things that I will always remember. One thing that really stuck out in my mind was how people like us help keep her going! Talk about something you never thought possible! She mentioned some days, it's hard to get out of bed and face the day. But that it's people like us, people that come and help and care for the kids, that get her out of bed on those days she is feeling defeated. It's truly amazing to know that, even with the small role we felt we played, we are even an inspiration to Kru Nam herself!

The next day we travelled to Chiang Mai. We travelled by van which..well...isn't always the best. Needless to say, especially from the title of the blog, you can tell this is where the motion sickness came in. It was a downer to not feel very well but we stopped a few nifty places on the way to the awesome hotel we stayed at. We stopped a butterfly and orchid place, a random hot spring and visited a temple where, after climbing to the top, it overlooks all of Chiang Mai. That's the part I skipped. I slept in the van to get over the motion sickness as the ride up was full of twists and turns. JK kept telling me about how I was missing out on something so gorgeous but that's OK. I plan on going back :)

The hotel we stayed at was awesome. We all loved it. A JK recommendation, it was called the Imm Hotel and was all white and orange. The soap also smells amazing...if you ever go, use the soap ;)

Bianca and I on the Dance Floor.
One night in Chiang Mai we went to a super touristy yet awesome restaurant and saw some authentic Thai dancing! Think Folklorama for Thailand but on a grander scale! Bianca and I even went out onto the stage in the middle of the restaurant and learnt to dance! It was such a fun experience! At the end of the food and dance, Milk had snagged some of the giant paper lanterns for us to release. Some of the group didn't want to participate, not wanting to take away from the magical time we had at the children's home releasing them. I however, got right in there and helped send them off! For me, it was all part of the cultural experience.

Upon returning back to the hotel, a group of us went to one of the big night markets. Most of us were pumped to do MORE shopping, since we are a majority girl group. On the way to the market, we walked through a red light district.

This was my first experience actually being in a red light district. I have seen these areas on movies and documentaries but actually being there and walking through it makes your heart ache. At the beginning of the night when were on the way to the market, there weren't a lot of people in the area yet. It was so sad to see the girls waiting there, sitting on stools at the very edge of the bars. Some of them would be yelling at you "Hey Sexy Ladies!" Some would just sit...not smiling...just sitting. As the night went on and we browsed the market, the bars and massage parlours down the street started to fill up. Our walk back to the hotel left most of us feeling sick. As we walked back the bars and massage parlours were pretty full. We would see white, adult men with their arms around the Asian girls laughing, chatting, flirting, and more. They were doing these things with girls who could have been the same age as their daughters. As we would walk and look inside all these places, the guys would look out at us, not even care that our faces were plastered with disgust, and go back to their treat for the night.

I had such a hard time with this. What those men are doing makes me mad, sick to my stomach, makes my heart race and makes me feel an uncomfortable anger for what is happening. To know, although we didn't know for sure how many, some of those girls are there against their own will or have been trafficked there is heart breaking in every imaginable way. I felt a fight inside of me; I want to stereotype these men. There's a part of me that wants to go right up to them and tell them what they are doing is disgusting, horrible and any other word I could think of to say that would make them feel bad because of what they are doing and take them off their high horse. But...who am I to judge? Who am I to go up to these men that wouldn't care what I had to say anyways, and tell them what I think of them? Like I said, they wouldn't care what I had to say anyways. Knowing I have no place to judge, while wrestling with it in the moment, turned out to be a comforting thought later on. To know that God is Just, to know that God will always Love, to know that God is Good means, that while I feel my heart aching in the moment I see those events in the red light district unfold, I can ensure my heart ache turns to compassion for those there against their will and God will take care of the rest. I can focus on reaching out, helping, shining and being a light.

Focusing the energy in positive ways will always be more productive than focusing on the negative.

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