Enote 23 – Love of Home

December 27, 2005

Introduction

The Christmas season has added excitement for us because this is the time when we plan our return to Asia, and the refugee communities whom we are so eager to see.

A Cultural Difference

Liz with Hill-Tribe WomanIt is hard for us Americans to realize how deeply some people treasure their birth place. We are a nation of immigrants. Many of us have never seen, and some of us may not even know the country of our ancestors. Not only that but I dare say each of us has moved, perhaps many times and maybe many miles from our place of birth. Our home is America and any part of our continent sized, beautiful country, is available for us to freely choose to make our home for whatever reason. This way of thinking about ourselves, our ancestors and our homes, is very much a part of our American identity.

The Karen and other hill-tribe people, on-the-other-hand, are born in a land of magic, filled with spirits, and peopled with their ancestors. Stories of their home are derived from animist traditions, which many hill-tribe peoples believe. Other Karens, Buddhists and Christians, don’t necessarily believe these stories, but they know them and enjoy telling them. Seen in this very special way, the land itself takes on a magical, mythological character, rather like a fairy tale or a story from Tolkein, and as the believer lives his life, he plays his part in a continuing drama which began before him and will continue after his death when he will join his ancestors. It becomes part of his identity.

Several years ago the Burmese Army came into a Karen village and the frightened villagers, ran to the border, and collected on a small island in the middle of the Moei River, which separates Burma from Thailand. See the top picture. It was as far as they could go without leaving their home country. We went to visit them in that no-man’s land and met an elderly lady, a hill-tribe Karen who had never before seen a white person. With Dr. Cynthia serving as interpreter, Liz had an extended and interesting conversation with this woman. A small piece of it went something like this:

“If you cross the river and take the truck twenty miles south to the refugee camp, we can feed you and you will be safe.”
“I won’t go.”
“But why not?”
“I saw a truck once and I saw people riding in it. But I didn’t get on the truck then and I won’t now.”
“But if the Burmese Army comes here they may kill you.”
“It’s alright. I am old. I will die soon anyway.”

As I say it is difficult for us Americans to appreciate how very much hill-tribe people treasure their land.

December Activities

  • Prepared and mailed the December Newsletter

  • Heavily involved preparing for our next trip (Flight Schedules, Reservations, Appointments with continuing students, Itinerary, Forms: Application, Re-application, Announcement, etc.) We fly to Asia on January 10, and return on March 21.

  • Received and acknowledged about three hundred contributions amounting to about $175,000. Our hearty thanks to all of you who have supported so generously our efforts.

As I write this on Christmas Day, after a happy celebration with three of our wonderful grandchildren, after receiving kind thoughts and wishes from many of you, and more from refugee students you and we are supporting, I am again reminded how very fortunate we are to have been raised in freedom as citizens of this country.

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We hope you have had a very Merry Christmas, and that you will have a Happy, Healthy, and Prosperous New Year,

Tom & Liz Brackett

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