Tuesday, January 13, 2015

tapestries waiting to be woven - a personal update

i finally made it back to my village, htee ther leh (three rivers run), after months of exile, just in time for the village christmas party. my attempts to return had been so numerous, and had been foiled by the burmese military or some inconvenient miscommunication each time. so when, on new year's eve, i made it halfway back, only to have my plans foiled again, i took matters into my own hands. i borrowed a friends motorbike, covered all my skin, wrapped a scarf around my face, and sped through the jungle alone on the motorbike in the dark through burma. when i finally made it to the village, i could hardly believe that i was actually there, after months of failed attempts. when the children first saw me, they screamed, then i screamed, then there were a lot of hugs and kisses and iloveyous.

don't be deceived by their docile appearance
i stayed and taught, and i moved back into my house. they had me teaching kindergarten now, which turned out to be one of the most challenging experiences in recent memory. forty jungle children who just want to play and don't want to study, one teacher who doesn't believe in corporal punishment or intimidation, doesn't speak enough of their language to give classroom instruction, has no kindergarten teaching experience, and five hours a day of supposed learning, for five days a week. i typically welcome challenging experiences, i believe nothing is too great a challenge. for anyone who knows me well, i'm pretty emotionally stable and able to deal with difficult situations with joy and serenity. but...
kindergarteners... they pushed me to my limit. i honestly almost had an emotional breakdown. however, i survived! thanks to a lot of meditation and the support of a fellow teacher and close friend.

my thai visa expires in april, and i plan to go back to america. but i came to southeast asia broke, and i'm still broke! at least every week in burma, someone asks me to come to their village to live and teach, but of course none of those offers would provide money, as capitalism is foreign to their communal culture. and airlines don't typically accept community service for payment. so after trying for so long to get back to my village, i knew that i couldn't stay. i packed up my house, took a lot of photos, said many tearful goodbyes, and headed back to thailand to try to find some kind of paid teaching position or tutoring, to fund my plane ticket for april.

friday night, i said my goodbyes and caught a ride with a school car back to thailand... but we didn't make it to thailand. not even close. we were going to make a short stop in another village and drop off music equipment and some students for a christmas concert they had planned. but there was a surprise rainstorm in the middle of dry season. the truck got stuck in the mud far into the burmese jungle, and we spent the next three days getting hundreds of dollars worth of musical equipment to the village, and rescuing the school car from the mud bogs. the effort exerted during those three days is beyond my minds ability to exaggerate, so i'll tell it like it was. three three-hour walks barefoot up and down muddy mountains in the cold rain, over treacherous bamboo bridges and through several raging rivers. about eight hours pushing, and rope-pulling three different vehicles - two tractors and a large truck - up steep mountains which were difficult enough to even walk up, and through several more flooded rivers.
unloading all the music equipment before we pulled the truck out

the intense weekend proved to be a perfect finale after teaching kindergarten for two weeks. if teaching kindergarten was the most emotionally exhausting thing i can ever remember doing, the jungle expedition was the most physically exhausting.

the last two weeks have been very trying, challenging and pushing me to new limits. but they've been really beautiful, i had a lot of fun, i loved a lot, and i'm glad to have lived and learned! now that i left my house, i'm once again officially homeless. i seem to have worn out my welcome in the school i lived at last year, due to my religious variance and my beliefs in radical love and radical freedom. and i'm broke as a joke and needing to buy a plane ticket.

i don't know where i'm sleeping tonight, where i'll be a week from now, or how i'll get across the great ocean in a few months. however, unlike a herd of wild kindergartners, this is the kind of challenge that i'm excited to face. the unsure days ahead are but tapestries waiting to be woven.