Well, I finally left. It's been one day and I miss it already. I had planned on spending a week, spent two. I'm sure the only reason I left is because I had to. My visa for Thailand is about to expire and I have to hop the border to renew it. I left it as long as possible, now I have to make a mad dash for the southern tip of Burma, then back into Thailand for some scuba diving. I can't believe I've been here for 1 month and only managed to see 3 towns. Man I'm a slacker. Finally though, the beaches and scuba diving. It doesn't even seem like I've seen the ocean on this trip. One week in Malaysia, and that's it. I better break out the sunscreen.
Not writing or posting anything for two weeks has created quite a back log, I'm a bit behind. I doubt I'll write as much as I should, I could go on forever. You'll just have to come over and experience it for yourself! I've posted alot of pictures on facebook though. I can only post a set amount on this travel page without having to pay for the suped up version, plus it's really slow. What can I say, I'm cheap, and facebook is fast and free. It took me almost 2 hours to upload all the pics and I'm a bit sick of looking at this computer. I'm thinkin I'll have to finish this update later. Maybe I'll try to keep a paper journal, so updating this is quicker? Good thought, but I doubt it'll happen.
So, Baan Dada Orphanage. What a place. I'm not quite sure were to begin. It was all a bit overwhelming. It was my best decision yet. The perfect place to of spent the holidays. Even though I'de thought I'de been escaping Christmas, wrong again! Dada is Christian, even though he doesn't push it on anyone, so we celebrated the big day. Three times actually. The party at the orphanage was on the 24th. This is when the kids got their presents from Dada and some volunteers. There was a stage set up and some of the kids sang songs and did skits. It was cute, all shy and nervous. Then we all went to Baan Unrak, another orphanage in town for dinner and a Christmas concert the next day. That orphanage is much bigger, and the concert was such an ordeal. You could tell they had put alot of effort into it and the kids loved it. They must mingle quite a bit because they all seemed to know each other and had their groups of friends. Then we put on a community Christmas at Dada's for all the less fortunate families in the village. Another chaotic event and an eye opener. We put on a breakfast and then games throughout the day. You could really tell that those families don't get much. Most of them are refugees from Burma and not recognized as citizens. The kids at the orphanage have it pretty good compared to some of the poorer kids. When it came time to hand out the presents and treats it was every man, woman and child for themselves. Grab what you can. We had bags and bags of used clothes that Dada had collected over the year. Some of the clothes were pretty ratty, but nothing was turned down. It was kinda hard to deal with. Trying to hand out clothes and gifts, while making sure everyone got something. They were all so desperate. It was obvious they weren't gonna receive much else that year. You gotta give Dada and the staff credit though. They're ran off their feet, and still make the effort for everyone else around them. You could tell they all really enjoyed it, and it was good for community spirit.
Over the holidays there had been a group of ten english teachers from Japan that had volunteered with the orphanage for their holidays. It was great to have such a large energetic group to help with the Christmas madness, and then we all spent 3 days in Piloki village. (It's sure been tempting to book a plane ticket for Japan now. When next will I know such a fun group of people spread all over Japan to visit and couch surf with?)Piloki is a small Karin village on a resevoir on the border of Burma. Most of the residents are Burmese refugees, and some of the kids have some surviving family members in town. We were the first big group of tourists, and kinda like guina pigs. The town is attempting to bring in more income from tourism and homestays. Dada,(it's probably weird to hear me call him that, but everyone does?!) liking to help everyone, has is hand in that project as well. It was an experience I'll never forget. We stayed in Traditional houses and ate like royalty. The days activities were a little less that organized, but the nights festivities were a hoot! With the combination of the holidays and such a large group of foreigners in town, the stage was lit up and the party was on! The first night was a concert of sorts, music, traditional Karin dancing, etc. and then the second night,,, It was our turn! During the day they'de taught us to do some of the dances, and discovered one of the guys could sing. All of a sudden we were being brought up to do a performance. Just my type of thing! LOL. Luckily, I'de only learnt one dance, and nobody else knew what we were doing any more than me. It was chaos, but good for a laugh. In the end it was a really wicked experience, going to such a small town and seeing some of the kids with their families. It made them really happy, but you could tell they were happy to be back at the orphanage in the end. A few of the kids came back with sores and cuts that needed some basic medical attention. Their families just can't provide enough for them, so they come to Dada's. It's really just like one big family anyway, 54 brothers and sisters, good food, school, and all the basics they need. Good to see, it really helped reaffirm just how much good Dada is doing, and so unselfishly. He is always the last one to be worried about.
With the holidays finally over, it was hard to get back into the swing of things. In the end, I look back and wonder what I actually accomplished while I was there. Not a heck of alot actually. My first couple of days were spent trying to "assist" an english girl teaching english. Joke, those kids don't do discipline, and have no attention span. Especially when they don't understand a word we're saying, and they know we're just a bunch of pushovers. A few days went towards doing construction on a new building. My farming days came in handy then. I was the only foreigner who could drive the tractor! Reversing the horses and wagon in Barkerville finally clued me into backing up with a trailer also! It seemed so easy all of a sudden! I fed those frickin cows for a year and couldn't reverse that good! The rest of the time we basically played with the kids and helped out with the little things that get swept under the carpet, like the X-mas cards I put in the mail in January. My personal cards MIGHT make it in the mail by February. And that's a big might.
The two weeks flew by, without hardly a blink. BeforeI knew it it I HAD to leave and still kept coming up with new excuses to stay. Finally I had to draw the line. I stayed for the wedding of one of the "Mothers" daughters, and then hit the trail. A traditional Karin wedding consists of about 2 hours of steady talking. Hard enough endure in English, but in a language I didn't understand? Definetly a challenge, but when I looked around and realized even the mother of the bride had fallen asleep, I relaxed into my chair a bit more and found a head rest. It was considered an honour to have foreigners at the ceremony so we were treated extra special. Our meal was served and we even got to sit at tables! Everyone else sat on the ground. So much for blending in! Ha! Not possible. Show up, sing a few songs,catch a quick nap, have a huge lunch, mingle a bit and then leave. So much simplier and less expensive than our weddings. I guess if you don't give them chairs, they won't be inclined to stay so long! Something to think about Dawn and Janice!!
In hind sight, (I've now been gone a week, it took a bit to finish this)I miss the place a pile and am very glad to of been there. Will I return?? It remains to be seen.