First of all, I hit my head on the end of a 2x4 in a restaurant. It's healing nicely. No stitches. A nice French doctor told me it would be fine, and I'm fine with that. Here's a picture.
I arrived in Mae Sot on Friday morning by way of a night bus from Sing Buri. The bus was fancy with reclining seats and lots of leg room. It was also freezing cold. And they played a Chinese King Kong movie translated into Thai. So when we got to Mae Sot, I slept all morning. I am staying at a hostel instead of with a host family like I thought. The hostel is owned by a family though, so I still have some connection with local Thai people at home.
I've been here,
at the clinic, for the last few days with a medic, mostly observing. This is the adult out-patient ward. It is run by about 10 medics. Patients come with complaints from fatigue and dizziness to fever and caugh to numbness in the arms and legs. This afternoon, through the medic as an translator, I was able to ask questions and write up several patients assessments which includes a chief complaint, patient history, hands on assesment and vital signs. Then diagnose the patient and prescribe treatment. It was a little scary. I felt under qualified in a way but the medic was right there to make sure everything was covered.
(To clarify: Burma and Myanmar are interchangeable and Karen is a tribe/ethnic group of the Burmese.)
The people who come to the clinic are primarily Burmese and Karen, a tribe on the border between Thailand and Myanmar here close to Mae Sot. The medics are mostly Burmese and speak Burmese, Karen, some Thai and some English. The patients communicate in either Burmese or Karen and the assesment is write in English by the medics. The situation with immigrants and refugees coming to Thailand from Myanmar is a huge issue that has been going on for over ten years. Please research it more. The patients I spoke with today work in the clothing factory here in Mae Sot. Their hours in one day are 8-12, 1-5, and 6-12 midnight, 7 days a week. So yes, they get two 1 hour breaks a day. That's enough, right. Their chief complaints were "dizziness" and "tiredness". It's common. When I looked into the eyes of a 25 year old woman who is married with thankfully no children and think she works 16 days, 7 days a week and she managed to take today off to come to the clinic, is there not more we can do?
Get out of that situation. Get an education. Find another job. Something. The horrible thing about this situation is that it's not that easy. Burmese migrants don't have access to the Thai healthcare system, and can be exploited for work because they have very limited options with very limited resources. Again, if you have any interest in this, start with Google and find out more information about it. It's bad. I don't really know all the details. I've only picked up a bit here and there from ex pats who work for organization helping these people get funding for major surgeries etc and students doing research in the area for the summer.
So here I am. What can I do. Smile. Give sincere advice about healthy living. That only goes so far.
These are the kids at Agape Orphanage. They are not all orphans. In fact, only a few of them actually have no family. Most of them have at least cousins or even siblings or parents. They too are Burmese or Karen. After the clinic around 4:00pm, I ride my bike about 20 minutes on good roads. It's just before a check point into Burma where I turn off to the orphanage. The kids get out of school about that time so it works nicely.
Here is a map to show how close it is to the river border.
The last few days I have spent with them speaking English. We work on pronounciation. Most kids are taught English in school so they can read and write fairly well, however, speaking it is something they just don't do with each other. We wrote out different questions and answers and practiced speaking them today. I encouraged them to when I left to work on them with each other. Tomorrow will tell. But for today, I noticed improvement from yesterday and even just the the hours we spent together they improved. It's exciting. And it's not just about learning English. It's about connecting and growing. Maybe we take those things for granted. Being from an affluent nation, we have the opportunity to connect and grow so often. Do we take those opportunities though? Growing hurts. Connecting is hard.
It's now 1:47 am. I barely feel tired. Tomorrow will prove I am though, so I must sleep.