We left this morning at 7:30 to drive to the school at Blatoh which is on the Thailand/Burma border in the Karen state in Burma. It is about 150 km from Mae Sot but took us nearly 5 hrs. On the way we passed a Karen refugee camp that held 30,000. Sad to say many of them have been there for 20 years ... Aust might take 80 a year. It was amazing to follow our trip on Google Maps through the mountains and even more amazing that there were enough satellites to pick up the very, very windy road. As the school is in Burma we picked up some Karen soldiers on the border to stay with us to keep us safe but it was really just to give them something interesting to do during their patrolling the border. But the guns and mortar guns they carried were certainly scary looking.
The school has 24 students from 4 to 14. The teacher is paid $800 for the year and that is considered a good wage. ( farmers who sell corn only get .15 bag) She lives in a little room under the school with her husband and year old son. If she was still in the refugee camp she would have a place to live, rice, fish paste and oil and 1000 baht ($30) to teach.
The children were so excited to see us. It took several trips up the steep stairs to bring all the things we had for them. Jan and I had brought about 40 books from Aust. (Mem Fox and stories about Australian animals) and we gave them out to the children when we got there. They hadn't had any books up until then so they just poured over them looking at the pictures even if they were upside down, back to front or sideways! We read a few stories to them after that and then they sang several songs for us with the teacher playing the guitar.
We then headed to another Karen village where several of the houses had large holes under so that they could hide if there was any fighting. The teacher of that village and many of the school children walked with us around the village..what a sight! Pigs, roosters,little chickens all running around with the children. One of the villagers climbed a palm tree and cut down about 15 coconuts so we had fresh coconut milk and some of the meat that the children had carried to the head villagers house.
That night we stayed at Big's uncles property on the river. Another experience! A beautiful little "shack" of bamboo, quite open to the elements. So out came the sleeping bags and mosquito nets and believe it or not electricity as they had a generator and even TV by satellite up in the bigger " shack". The teacher and her husband cooked us a beautiful rice dinner while we set up both sharing the carrying of their baby ( on their backs)