From Thighland to Thailand

February 24, 2017

Thailand-Myanmar 6.4

Filed under: Uncategorized — markchinmd @ 2:24 pm

February 22, 2017

I’m having Internet withdrawals. I couldn’t send this earlier due to the lack of Internet availability and let’s say some sensitive material couldn’t be covered until we left Myanmar.   So would you like to hear the good news or bad news? Okay, the good news is that God is great. “…O ye with little faith? Matt 8:26

God was just playing with us, testing our faith. God is in control and answered our prayers. He gave us back our toys. We got word that all of our bins and luggage released but the bad news is that we had to leave for Isuta village yesterday without them otherwise we would have lost another day from the village. So we departed with limited supplies that we picked up locally and we won’t be able to reunite with the bins until going back to Chiang Mai Friday.

We left for Isuta village yesterday on Tuesday, February 21, bright and early which gave us an extra day to acclimate to the time change, which is 15 hours ahead of you. So you’re really reading about what’s happening tomorrow.   So, back to the future: After a 6-hour grueling ride that required four-wheeled drive vehicles to traverse streams and climb hillsides while riding the crest of mountains, our caravan of about six vehicles arrived at the river bank bruised and battered. Truly we were tossed all over the place in our cabins hitting potholes and rocks in the river, heads bouncing on the cab and shocks sometimes bottoming out. A few brave souls like Chris, Andy, and Kane rode in the open back bed of the truck. It was also convenient to vomit if the need arose.   I am just glad I wasn’t in the trailing truck.   When they got out they were covered with dust; they reminded me of Pigpen.   We were able to avoid the cattle barges by getting to a river crossing in a more favorable spot, thus avoiding governmental checkpoints as well, which might have held us up and we certainly didn’t need that. A short ride on the long-tailed boats brought us to beach on the other side, which was now Myanmar, where we would face a steep climb of several hundred feet. The villagers fortified the dugged-out steps to make the climb easier. Young and old were bringing up our bins, luggage, and large fresh water bottle supplies up the hill like personal Sherpas helping each of us to the top. If we tried to help carrying things we were really in their way and actually a hazard to them. We were greeted on the receiving grounds with smile and a large sign saying, “Welcome For All People.” That was comforting as you know, some countries have certain bans to people of certain ethnic backgrounds from entering the country, but I’m not mentioning any names.

Our gracious hosts in the Karen village sacrificed some of their own personal space to allow the team to spread out into 4 different huts. Electricity is minimal but we got a gas generator to satiate this power-hungry group and their personal electronics.   We are camping on wooden floors with thin mats and an air mattress and our thin sheets under mosquito nets.   Some underestimated the cool night air and froze while others stayed toasty warm with their mummy style sleeping bags. I did suggest that members could share body heat but Pastor said “No!” (I think he said that since no one wanted to share their body heat with him.)

We literally woke to the sounds of the roosters crowing.  It is, by the way, the Year of the Rooster and they wanted to let their presence be known.   I am really hoping for some roasted chicken soon. After our morning devotion we set up clinic in the community hall.  We were still very productive and effective despite not having our tools of the trade but God knows what we need and provides the things that we need for today duties. The eye clinic were still able to check refraction and make note of their prescriptions so that the lenses can be ground in Chiang Mai when we return and glasses can be assembled with our equipment and then sent later back to the village. The clanging village bell rang out to notify the families to go to the dental clinic held at the nearby elementary school and taught hygiene and brushing. They gave out toothbrushes and pencils and tablets to the children so that they could draw. About 73 children filled the room.   The medical clinic saw a lot of musculoskeletal disorders (many patients are manual laborers in the field), pediatric disorders, and women’s health issues.   Some surgical problems like a large inguinal hernia and leg mass could not be helped. Ellen Middleton, FNP held a special seminar at night on women’s health issues (pregnancy, violence against women, gynecologic hygiene, breast cancer screening with self- breast exams. This was a “women only” event as I was kicked-out pronto as I was seen as paparazzi even though I was just doing my job as a photojournalist. There it goes again, a nurse telling a doctor what to do. It’s an epidemic.   This is going to be a long two weeks.

After clinic ended mid afternoon, we took a mile or so stroll through the hillside to look at the village refugee camp where the dental team will go to give dental hygiene and prevention education. This is a settlement of many displaced Karen tribe families who are another ethnic group without a country. I believe that the militia present helps keep this region safe against warring factions and are part of the Karen military. High-ranking officials came to meet us and let their support be known.

I am amazed at the village layout and construction of the buildings. Wood from bamboo line the walls with roofs covered with a type of tree leaf where they collect, dry, and pressed to make a protective roof.   There are scattered stores along this pathway to the upper grade school. We came across a medical clinic that has a birthing center for the villagers.   The village is very productive as there are crowds of young children playing in the streets and in the river. One small child just grabbed a chicken in the road by its legs, held it upside down, and just took it down to the river in preparation of their version of KFC (Karen Fried Chicken). Adult hogs are locked in the pen while piglets play with the family like pets. One pig even had a leash around its neck. The river is quite important to them as a source of water and chores. One man was sharpening his machete on the rocks while others washed out their clothes by hitting the clothes against the rocks then creating soapsuds to clean them. The people look very content and happy. Many children played with others or simply looked out the window or sat on the stairs watching people, such a silly tourists taking pictures or video or them, walking by.   They are quite curious and amazed when I show them a photo of themselves on the camera. They giggled and laughed and I wonder if any of them has seen themselves in a mirror or photo and actually know what they look like. They seemed to live comfortably and even had satellite dishes and solar panels connected to large car batteries for power. We do not or should not pity them based on our western culture. I’m sure that there are a lot less type A personalities here and they do what they need to do to put food on the table. Did I mention that this is a mostly Christian village with posters on the side of the house of Jesus Christ. Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!


At dinner, Kane presented us with new T-shirts that his friend who makes them donated. It read, “Side by Side For the Faith of the Gospel.” Logos of oxen and huts that remind us of our past trips were part of the nice design. These shirts will be one of the uniforms that we have to wear.

After dinner yesterday the village put up a concert-like program for us filled with teams of children singing a variety of songs. The team members embarrassed themselves by trying to sing “Amazing Grace” especially on the second verse where few knew the words. The children sang several songs of praise and were very entertaining.

We were very tired from the trip and unpacking so we turned in early even looking forward to sleeping on the floor. Some of us smelled fresh, although our definition of fresh is: smelling like iodine-treated river water. Thank you Bill for the portable water shower. It was very refreshing washing off layers of accumulated sweat and Deet from our skin and actually well.

Good night. Time to catch some zzzzzzs.




1 Comment »

  1. […] The team made it to Isuta. […]

    Pingback by Mark’s Blog #4 « FCBC Fresno — February 24, 2017 @ 5:40 pm

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