“One child is one child too many”. The heartbreaking reality that children, teenagers, women, and men continue to be trafficked, molested, raped, and exploited. The surface level of statistics does no justice to those who are caught in fear and hopelessness. And in learning about the struggles of the Mekong region, I in turn feel a sense of hopelessness that darkens my heart and clouds my thinking. As the tears dare to escape from my eyes I feel the pain. The pain of those whose lives have been taken advantage of. Women and men who feel there are no other options to support their family, other than to enter into a life of prostitution or unfair labour. Class on Monday set my stomach in a fit of knots as stories with unhappy endings were displayed through video and discussion. Understanding the system, the demand, and the acceptance of human trafficking and exploitation comes rooted in cultural expectation. Women in Buddhist culture carry the financial burden of the family, and it is harder to gain merit. For men, they can become a monk and gain family honor easily. For a girl, she will spend her entire lifetime trying to uphold the honor and the merit of her family. An unfair reality that is seeded in centuries of tradition and inequality. For me, I have to accept the things that I cannot change. I cannot change a culture’s tradition, I cannot change an entire system to get people out of poor situations. However, I can help in a small way. The small way is what gives me hope. Awareness sets in a deep ache that pushes a determination to help even the life of one. I do not know where or what God may call me to do as my future comes around the corner. I can feel the burn inside of me that may decide what life after college may look like for me. For now, it is a season of learning. A season of trial and error. As I make cultural mistakes of accidentally pointing with my feet or trying to keep a quiet tongue as not to offend anyone that their food is beyond the level of spicy I am comfortable with, I learn. Every step forward I am learning and God whispers in the silence of the night of issues of my past that can be healed, and issues of my future that he is preparing me for. My dreams, vivid in nature give me a warning of what is to come. But it also gives me a time to process and look beyond the statistics. The numbers are more than numbers in a country report. The numbers are people. It is easy to graze over the thousands of people who are displaced or trafficked. When I read the numbers, I feel the fear that those individual people feel. But the world will only know them as a number. I will never know individual names, families, or villages, but I do know that they are people. People who are the same as me, they just have been caught in a system of corruption and brokenness. A system that can only be changed by a community and the love of God.
To ease the tension of class I spent sometime with the Lahu girls who were practicing piano. I still have not quite figured how they know what note to sing from the hymnal! When the sky turned to black and the stars shone a bright white, we rode our bikes down to the 7-11. It was quite the adventure with a bike chain continually breaking and the attempt at drinking chocolate soy milk with a straw while riding the once again wobbly bike. After the nighttime adventure I walked up the four flights of stairs to find the reality that the water still was not working. I poked my head outside and recognized that it seemed to be raining hard to enough to wash my hair. So naturally I leaned my head over the banister and shampooed as well as conditioned with the steady pour of water coming from the sky. Electricity and water is not always guaranteed here, which creates a continual mentality of going with the flow and seeking alternatives for things. Such as utilizing stormy weather for the purpose of showering!
Wednesday we also were taught by the Buddhist Monk about the role of temples and monks. It was interesting, but the green tea provided made me a little sleepy along with the scarf given to me by Momma J gave the ideal temperature for snoozing. It took quite the effort to fully focus on how Buddhism was spread through Southeast Asia. I continually appreciate the opportunities I have been given here and still love the culture. The biggest struggle is food. Sometimes I really just want bland food, but that is not a mentality of Thai culture. My favorite meal so far is noodles and soup, it is a solid choice and usually doesn’t have anything spicy in it!
Thank you everyone for your continued prayers and support!