It’s my third time in the camp, and true to the saying, third time really is the charm. Either the weather or the road or the conditions have improved or I have grown a thicker skin. I no longer feel as if my heart is breaking with every conversation I initiate or with every question of mine that’s answered. I no longer wince at the wobbly road or the slippery river – even as it was covered in pig’s blood this afternoon. I remained calm. Pensive – clearly lost in thought and tired from camp politics and introspective analysis – but calm and without the heavy feeling that my heart will implode at any moment.
It was that heavy feeling that drove me away the second time. That caused me to leave before the festivities and the excitement of Karenni National Day had even began. That alerted the introvert in me to arrange a motorbike back to Dokita, and closed the door to the world.
It was a bad experience. A truly heavy experience. It was filled with anger that my students had to live through these conditions and have very little in the way of freedoms (Sen 1999) and self determination – all because of the circumstance of their birth and the racist politics that dictates our world. It was also one of anxiety and of fear as I again entered without the guarantee of safety. It was also not just me who was alert, cautious, and afraid. My students were in the same boat, concerned that the men in ‘Thai BNP Security’ shirts would ask me a question for which I have no reply to in Karenni or Thai. They were afraid that I would be found out. That they too would be found out as my accomplice. Their protective cloak – made out of fear and anxiety – smothered and suffocated the strength in me. Every murmur of “Teacher, don’t speak. Thai Authorities”, stabbed at my bravery. And so I ran. I ran out of camp, through the low laying security bar, through the muddied, slippery path, and through the narrow swerving mountain road to arrive back in the safe confines of Dokita.
Now, my third time back, brought in by a man that I barely know but who possess the kind of eyes that demands of trust, my nerves have been calmed. He glided over the mountain road and slippery clay path with confidence on his motorbike. He entered through the gates with his eyes looking straight ahead. And he drove through camp without the hint of uncertainty, turning what was before unexpected turmoil into ordinary bumps.
So this time, I entered more relaxed and less battered, ready to experience what I ran away from before. And although the photos and descriptions below is an escapist ending from verbally conveying the complex realities and politics that runs ‘camp life’ – It is all I can muster after a 48 hour immersion into camp/Thai/Karenni/Burmese politics.