Has The Lady lost her voice?

I’ve written before about the plight of the Rohingya people, a Muslim ethnic minority in Western Burma. Their situation becomes more dire as they are denied not only the rights of Buddhists in Burma, but even basic aid offered by international NGOs.

I’ve written before about the increasing dissatisfaction, both within Burma and from the outside, with Aung San Suu Kyi, who was previously the champion of freedom, democracy, and human rights in Burma.

Now Daw Suu Kyi is silent. She tells us “don’t forget that violence has been committed by both sides. This is why I prefer not to take sides and also I want to work towards reconciliation between these two communities. I’m not going to be able to do that if I’m going to take sides.” this stance is certainly diplomatic, and I’m sure there is truth to it. But this is effectively condoning the discrimination and massacre of a horribly oppressed people.

I don’t know Daw Suu Kyi’s game. Is she strategically staying neutral so as to maintain credibility to eventually be more effective? Is she more focused on the Democracy issues in Burma without the attention to delve in to Human Rights issues? Is she in the pocket of the Burma Army? I don’t know.

What I do know is that you can never put your entire faith in one human. Daw Suu Kyi was never going to save Burma. The people of Burma will save Burma when they put aside religion and ethnicity and unite to work for quality of life for everyone. But then, Burma isn’t unique in its need to strive for those values.


Rohingya people suffer, and no one is allowed to help

The story of the Rohingya people is desperately sad and compelling. They are a Muslim minority living largely in Arakan State, Burma. By most they’re considered foreigners, more Bangladeshi than Burmese. They’re the people pushed out to sea with no engine if they drift onto foreign land, left to die or land in another inhospitable country. They’re the people attacked by mobs of their neighbors and beaten to death. They’re the only people in Burma restricted to a two child per family policy. And for the last several months the government of Burma has kicked out aid groups and refuses to let them provide healthcare to the Rohingya.

Obama is concerned.

Suu Kyi is silent.

What will we do?

BA shoots Free Burma Ranger

Despite the cease fire, Burma Army opened fire, unprovoked, on one of our teams last month. The team was monitoring BA activities, including building up their roads and camps. Our video man was shot on the arm, but came to our hospital and got care right away. He is in stable condition and won’t lose his arm.

Here’s the story from a Karen news agency.


Every week I hear new reports of BA shooting at villagers and rice fields, as well as reinforcing their camps and threatening/harassing villages.

Pray for our Karen people.

Is that correct? Politically, I mean.

I was going to write a post about bamboo, but that’ll have to wait, as I have something else on my mind.

One activity that keeps me entertained out here is listening to podcasts. My favorite is Missed in History from How Stuff Works. Something in the podcast has struck me recently.

At the end of each episode the hosts read letters from listeners. Often the writer is correcting or expanding upon something in an earlier episode. Recently, though, there have been a slough of letters with a small political correction. It’s usually done gently, and the host then spend several minutes explaining why they used the term they did or apologizing for the mistake. I’ve been trying to put my finger on why this makes me squirm.

What is the point of political correctness? Well, in our postmodern culture, where there are no absolute truths, the the main thing we value isn’t virtue but tolerance (after all, virtue is different for each person, right?). And political correctness has grown out of this. If you use the right terms everyone will know that you are tolerant of other people and their views.

But ‘to tolerate’ just means to put up with something. And I don’t want to simply put up with the people around me. God called me to love the people around me.

American culture makes me feel guilty, telling me that if I believe in [capital T] Truth than I must be a hater. I get sucked into this idea that I have to speak a certain way to prove that I’m a kind person. There’s nothing in there about my actions.

Now, I’m not going to cram my beliefs down anyone’s throat. I won’t argue belligerently and I’ll pick the time and place to have a discussion on a touchy subject. But what’s more important than any of that is how I live my life before God.

I don’t want to care how other people view me. I don’t want my actions to be dictated by the world’s expectations for me. I want to live a my life well. In God’s eyes.


Next time – what are they doing with that giant bamboo?

‘Oh, you’re trying to sleep? That’s your problem!’

Karen Cultural Lesson – Karens have the view that you’re responsible for your own sleep. They won’t tip toe around the house if you’re napping any more than if it’s 4 AM. If you want to sleep, figure it out.

Now, I’m a morning person, so I’m not bothered by a rooster crowing at 5 AM directly under me (our bamboo houses, with their thin bamboo floors, are on stilts because we build on a hillside). Even 4:30 roommates cooking breakfast is fine. I taught at a school last year where the students worshipped at 4 AM, so I woke up to hymns in the dark morning hours each day (then, usually, promptly fell back asleep).

But one incident just takes the cake. One day one of the boys started playing music at 2:30 AM. Now, their dorm was across a sports field from me. Not close. At all. But the music was so loud that it was like a rave was happening in my hut (only with Karen pop music). It continued until after 5 AM. I tried listening to my iPod, covering my head, moving to a hammock further away, even glaring across the field. To no avail.

If you want to sleep, figure it out.

We Told Them

I arrived at camp to see a shiny new path around the last hill. And by ‘around’, I don’t really mean around.

We told them to build a path AROUND the hill. But there was ‘a rock in the way’. So this is what they did.


Not quite around, but less straight-up-I-might-die than the previous path.


Bless their Karen hearts; Karen people walk straight up mountains. If we ever manage a path around this hill, it’ll be the first level path I’ve seen in Karen state!

I’ve hear different theories. It makes sense, as villagers can easily escape up a hill and disappear into the jungle. Attacking Burma Army, with heavy packs and unconditioned for the treacherous mountains, can’t catch them.

The fact of the matter is, they pick this path. Every time. Even if it’s really steep, and there’s a switchback that makes it much easier (and, for me, faster), they’ll take the straight up route.

My own Stair Master.

A New Year

I get just as excited about buying new notebooks and pencils for my students as for myself. A coworker commented a few weeks ago that he’d never seen anyone so thrilled to shop at ‘Costco’ (not Costco, but our equivalent). The fresh, crisp pages and store packaging represents everything about a new beginning. This year is a new change to learn something, to engage with the topic, to grow personally. Every day should be the first day of school.

Now I’m at JSMK, trying to get the year off to a good start. I can see a huge improvement in my teaching skills since last year, and consequently in the students understanding. It’s so fun and interesting thinking about how to portray these difficult concepts. I’ll keep you updated as we go.


We got an indoor washer!! Granted, the washer is still me, but with water piped our house (brand new the last few months) I can now wash my clothes in my kitchen instead of climbing down the hill to the stream!!


This is a typical Karen breakfast – rice, green veggie, spicy paste. I’ve also become quite addicted to Dogfruit, this bitter nut that really compliments the other favors! Dinner looks the same.

Yep, Sunday morning in the jungle feels pretty good.


I’ve spent much of the last several months writing a math curriculum and text book. My students, many of whom have a very low education level, struggle with concepts that we are taught from a very young age. Conversions from fractions to decimals to percents is particularly tricky. So I’ve been trying to come up with ways to simplify these ideas and explain them in a conversational tone. Mastering this basic math is vital to their success as medics.

Yesterday I sent the fruit of my labor to a translator, so hopefully in two weeks I’ll have a Karen textbook to work from when the new school year at Jungle School of Medicine.

Christmas is the Time

Love, right? Isn’t that what we talk about at Christmas? Love and Family. The one time of year where people are most encouraged to stop and cherish those around them, to be selfless, to give to charity. My Facebook feed is filled with the stories and pictures of my friends and their loved ones. For me, this season is filled with the warm, fuzzy feelings of my family, but what if I didn’t have that?

The Burma government agreed as a part of the a Joint Action Plan with the United Nations to release all child soldiers by Dec. 1st. Measures are being taken, but young Burmese boys remain in the army. Even if they run away or are release, they return home as shadows of their former selves, thanks to years of brutal treatment and witnessing horrific events.

This Christmas, surround yourself with people you love. Cherish your freedom. And pray for the children of Burma.