Day 7: Speaking Whale
This past weekend, the GROW team got a little touristy in and around Chiang Mai. We visited a famous temple outside the city, Doi Suthep, and ventured to see friendly elephants, that loved to give kisses, and playful baby tigers. Last night we walked around the Sunday walking street in the old city, bargaining with the locals and eating dinner from street vendors. After a busy weekend of exploring, we hit the ground running this morning.
Today was a day of learning for the GROW team. While Neelima and Kristina were at KWAT’s office working on the Activity Report, Adam, Harrison and I taught English to the Interns at their house 15 minutes away. Today we reviewed old vocabulary, played games to teach modes of transportation and places (charades was a hit), and finished watching “Finding Nemo”. When we went over vocabulary from the movie, one of the interns asked what the word “baaaaack” meant. We had to explain that Dory the fish was simply saying the word “back” in the language “Whale”. The most interesting part of our day came at the end when we spent 45 minutes talking to the Interns about their lives in Kachin and Shan States and their views on the situation in Burma.
When one of our interns began to explain how they collectively viewed the government, Adam tried to record him speaking so we
could bring the recording back to the rest of GlobeMed at Dartmouth. When the intern saw the camera, he did not want to speak for fear of having these views recorded. To us, what originally seemed like a learning experience turned into a social faux pas: it became apparent through their reaction that speaking out against the Burmese government is not something to be done lightly. After we turned the camera off, the intern explained how the media incorrectly portrays things as well and good in Burma. In reality, due to the religious tensions in the country among Buddhists, Muslims, and Christians, it is difficult for Christians to get jobs and even those who are educated as doctors or engineers cannot find work. The interns are in the program to learn more about politics and democracy to become effective advocates for change in their organizations and the greater community. After getting to know the interns for a week, it was particularly powerful for us to connect these experiences to people who live in Burma and are directly affected by the actions of the Burmese government.
Back at KWAT’s office, Neelima and Kristina met a liaison to KWAT who came to discuss a grant proposal. She had just come from Rangoon, the capital of Burma, and emphasized the rapidly shifting political climate there. Even from her visit 3 months previously, Burma has received significantly more investors. With high demand and an influx of resources, prices in the country have soared. The representative stayed in a two-star hotel (without electricity) for $150, highlighting the significant problems that can occur for citizens due to the jump in prices. Even though money is flowing into the country and the government, allocation of funds is slow and most of the funds are tied up in bureaucratic processes. Money, for the most part, is unavailable and the newly elected democratic government cannot begin implementing changes. For us, hearing about developments in the center of Burma juxtaposed the lack of change in the peripheral Kachin and Shan States and emphasized the problematic nature of economic reform in Burma.
After learning more about the conflict and the current state of Burma, we headed back to the hostel to regroup and talk about our experiences. We are spending the night resting at the guesthouse and plan to find another delicious Thai restaurant for dinner. I have developed a love of all things spicy and always look forward to tasty meals.
Peace ‘n blessins,