Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Day 1 Mae Sot - Border between Thailand and Myanmar.

Flying to Chiang Mai from Hong Kong and caught the sunset on the flight. This marks the starting point of my 2-month service trip in Mae Sot. May the Lord keep us safe and sounds during this trip and use our hands to serve the local community wholeheartedly. 

My summer break have started officially, but this summer break gonna a little bit different from the previous summers I had. I will spend the first two month of my summer break to volunteer teaching English in Mae Sot, Thailand. I had never expected myself of doing this, until I applied the volunteering programme through HKU Connecting Myanmar and bought the flight ticket to Chiangmai. 

HKU Connecting Myanmar is a non-profit initiative programme that organised by HKU students to recruit passionate volunteers with the mission to bring the best out of ones' life chances. It aims to to support Myanmar people towards a sustainable livelihood by connecting Hong Kong students with Myanmar people and nurture university students as global leaders with humanitarian characters by utilising their potential in addressing the problems in the Myanmar community. It's under a very occasional situation that I get the chance to join this programme and know more about the situation in Myanmar: My friend, Angeline who previously joined this programme asked if I am interested in doing volunteering service in June/July and said that CM was recruiting volunteers. Immediately I said yes, then the next day I joined their training section and get recruited without going through a official application and formal interview like others volunteers. So, in this summer, I will be teaching English in a vocational centre calls Knowledge Zone. 

Some people asked me why I decided to participate this but not doing internship since I was already a third year student. To be honest, I don't really know how to reply because my answer might sound very superstitious. Of course, literally it can be  "I want to help people" or "I want to explore the local culture" or "I want to gain experience" or "I want to do something other than internship before graduate from university". But, in the bottom of my heart, I know the answer should be "God guides me to do this and it's not about me but Jesus". I can't deny that I do feel a bit nervous and worried to come to Mae Sot and teach the working adults alone while two of my friends are teaching together in another migrant school. I do fear that what if my arrival fails to provide any help to the locals, or my volunteering actually burdens the local community. However, every time when I have such anxiety, the next thought comes into my mind would be "God has his best plan for me, He is in control. I can always take refuge in the Lord", then I find peace again. Yes, nothing to be feared when I am deeply loved. 

The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. - Psalm 18:2

When I first arrived here, I find it a bit similar with the kampung in Malaysia, especially my mum's hometown and it isn't as rural as I imagined. Mae Sot is a district in Western Thailand (Tak Province) that shares border with Myanmar in the West. The town has a substantial population of Burmese refugees and economic migrants. The exact number of Burmese in Mae Sot is unclear, but estimates say that over 100,000 exist in addition to the 106,000 already recorded in the official census. In recent years the ongoing refugee situation has prompted NGOs and international aid agencies to establish programmes in the town and surrounding area. (Information provided by Connecting Myanmar). We took 6 hours bus from Chiang Mai to Mae Sot. Along the trip, we passed through greenly hills and winding roads with great views and also lots of construction. It feels good to be back to nature after spending few months in big city like Hong Kong. I can't help to think of my hometown, Malaysia which is also largely covered by dense rain forest and various plants. When we arrived the bus terminal at Mae Sot around 7pm, a school teacher and his wife from STTC, had already there waiting us in order to pick us up to DK hotel. It's the first time I have ever sit in the back carriage of a mini truck, it was so exciting and chilling as the summer breeze gently blowed towards my face. The teacher welcomed us with open arms and invited us to his place to have dinner together. Although I am not a member of the renovation team, I still followed them and had dinner with them together on the first night. My first impression towards this small town: People here are so friendly and nice although they can only speak simple English. We tried to communicate with the locals by using google translate, but failed then realised that body language and face expression are even more useful.
My first dining-out meal in Mae Sot. I tried to order a bowl of soup noodles by using English but once again it failed. Luckily I still managed to order it by showing the waitress a picture of noodles and it tastes nice with all the veggies and half-boiled egg :)

After coming back from exchange in Europe, the coming two months would be another brand new experience for me to explore a new culture. So far, I have only learnt two Burmese phrases which are "Min-ga-la-ba" and "Kyei-zu-tin-ba-de" - Hello and Thank you :)

Not knowing Thai/Burmese makes communication become so difficult, just hope that I could successfully communicate with my students when I start teaching next Monday. Anyway, I do believe that love always is the common language among human being :)

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