February 6, 2014
In the last email I wrote about a planned supper at the house of Jonel Kianlova, one of the high school teachers in Aizawl who works with us. He lives in the city of Aizawl, but "a little far" as they would put it. Little did I know at that time, what a trip to his house involved. We went in the evening, and by the time we arrived it was dark. To the right is a picture of a taxi on that road taken during the day time. Did we meet oncoming cars on the road? Yes. Did we have to back up until a place wide enough to pass was found? Yes. And due to those remarkable drivers who seem to have the ability to make their cars squeeze through the smallest of places, we survived both the trip there and the return that night. I'll leave the rest to your imagination.
A couple of days later found us back in Bangkok having all of our TReps together for the first time. Protests against the government were increasing leading up to the election on Sunday Feb. 2, but they had no effect on our work. We sorted applications, discussed procedures and budgets for each area we work in. The following evening the entire group (Hoppy and Judy Winfield for Northern Thailand, Alyson Illich, Barbara Rydon, and Janice Santikarn for the Mae Sot Area and Doug Offenhartz for Kanchanaburi, Sangklaburi and nearby areas). The following evening they were all treated to a fine Italian meal by Liz and Tom. In the picture below they are from the left: Liz Brackett, Alyson Illich, Tom Brackett, Hoppy Winfield, Doug Offenhartz, Judy Winfield, Steve Santikarn (Janics's husband), Janice, and Barbara Rydon.
The following day all TReps left for their respective areas of work in Thailand. Liz and I flew to Mae Sot and we rose early the next morning to catch a songthau at 7am for Mae Salit to visit the Maw Kwee and Kler Day school teachers. At some point in our lives, Liz and I must begin to limit our physical stess. It did not even occur to us that a 3 hour ride on a bench in the back of a pickup truck followed by 2 two hour meetings, followed by a return to Mae Sot (taking about 10 hours in all) was at all unreasonable at our age. We were exhausted but otherwise untroubled by the trip.
A lot of good things happened on this trip, but I only have room to report one. Twenty-two years ago on our first trip to Asia, Liz had a child in her English class named DiDi. Several years later after we had established our support for education, DiDi and his friend Chit Paw, became teachers of the Kler Day school. Now Saw DiDi has become village leader of Kler Day village. Because Kler Day is the largest village and the center of a number of smaller villages, Saw DiDi has responsibility for leadership of all the surrounding villages as well. Chit Paw helps him in these responsibilities.
How leaders are actually chosen in these primitive tribal communities remains a mystery. I'm not even sure that these positions are sought or desired. Certainly nothing as definitive as an election is held, I'm not even sure they have a meeting. Rather it seems a general impression of a "father figure" seems to accrue to the community, a general agreement that this is the right person to speak and make decisions for me. Anyhow Saw DiDi, shown on the right strikes an impressive figure.
Also we have met with Dr. Cynthia and shared a few rememberances from our past together. We went to the school and met with students and teachers. We have found the school actively engaged in thinking about education for their students beyond high school. And we have just returned from a visit with Eh Thwa, the director of the Community Schools Program we started in 2001. Soon we are off to Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son to visit the Nai Soi school and the Karenni leadership.
Best Wishes to all,