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so. I feel pretty down at the moment.

Lots of things really. Mostly work actually. I just have so much to do all the time and I never feel on top of it all 😦

But every now and then adoption stuff creeps up too.

Like when I see this video (below) it is of the little baby girl I met last time I was in Thailand. Naut (all humans are born equal) She is Burmese, she is at the Mae Tao clinic which the organisation I work at supports. Her health care is lokoed after by BCMF, who we also support. So I know she is in good hands.

But just like back in February I am so sad that she does not have a mummy and daddy. All children need them. But sick children need them most of all. They need advocates and loving hugs to get them through. It is not a secret. I wish I was Naut’s mummy. I wish I could keep this little girl safe and help her to get well. But unfortunatly it is not possible even though I am approved to adopt a child and she is a child who needs a family.

Here is beautiful Naut’s story (so far):

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So I have ben a little quiet lately… on this blog at least.

It is partly because of the usual story – very VERY busy at work, lots going on with the renovations (more on that soon).

But also there is more to it.

I am just so sad and heartbroken. It now happens every time I go overseas for work. Before I don’t know… I held some little flicker of hope in my heart that some of the stateless children – the Burmese children would make it through ‘the system’ and would be going to forever homes… and that maybe one of these babies would become our baby. That is what I hoped.

But each time I visit I meet another baby who is stateless and abandoned and in need of a mummy and daddy. I know that I could be that person. I know others who have been waiting with their file in the Thai system for years… who keep getting told by authorities in Australia ‘your wait is long because there are not enough children needing families” HA! Where do they get this from? Who is telling them that? Because all I can say is… What a bloody lie! The truth is that not enough of the ‘right’ babies are needing families.

Well I don’t care about that. I care about the babies that are at the bottom of the heap. And I can tell you this it does not get any more bottom of the heap then being a refugee baby, abandoned and sick.

I met two babies like that this trip. I would mummy to them both right now. Why not? My file is in Thailand – these babies are in Thailand – they were BORN in Thailand. Husbot and my file says on it ‘fit to be parents’ and that is what these babies need – so badly!

Like this little boy, 11 months old. Born and abandoned at the Mae Tao Clinic. This is a good clinic, which my organisation funds, who take care of over 100,000 patients per year. There are over 3,000 babies born there every year and maybe about 30 are abandoned. The clinic keeps the babies and cares for them for months in case the mother comes back.

While this baby boy was waiting (to see if his mother came back) he contracted TB. He is now one sick little boy.

He is tiny tiny tiny. Like a baby only 4 months old – not 11 months old. I tried tickling his foot and touching is leg to see if he responded to some gentle touch. But he was just too sick. heartbreak. HEARTBREAK.

When he is well (please little boy, please get well) he will probably go to live at Compasio in the babies home: http://www.compasio.org/Compasio/Blog/Entries/2012/1/24_Safe_in_His_Arms.html

Then there is this beautiful little girl. She has a serious illness. She was abandoned at 2 months old because of her illness. I think from memory it is a congenital heart disease. On our paperwork Husbot and I are approved to adopt a child with congentital heart disease – her illness could probably be fixed in Australia quite quickly with our advanced medical facilities. But this little girl is a refugee, she is abandoned, without parents or an advocate.

As you can see she is being cared for very well. Not only is the Mae Tao Clinic looking after her, but because she has a special needs illness she is also being looked after by another partner organisation of ours, the Burma Children Medical Fund. They have become her advocates.

watching her breath while sleeping was very sad for me. She is so small and so alone. She really needs a mummy and daddy. It does not make sense to me that a system can just shut these babies out.

You can follow this babies story on the Mae Tao Clinic’s facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/groups/215094205197206/#!/photo.php?fbid=349092045113096&set=a.144640118891624.22043.142846872404282&type=1&theater

Which is what I will have to do too. Because even though I have seen with my own eyes babies that desperately need loving homes. Babies who have already been cast aside by the policial unrest in Burma (causing their parents and now them to be a refugee) and then cast aside again by a system that does not care for them because they are stateless…. babies who are truely on the bottom of lifes heap. I still get notified every now and then that the long delays are because “there remains a greater number of applications in Thailand than children in need of intercountry adoption.”

If only I did not know the truth.

So, I inhabit a pretty diverse space. Given the nature of my work, (as discussed here and here) many people I work with do not share my cultural background.

However it may seem that this is simply me departing my world and entering into that of my colleagues and peers. Well, yes to an extent it is. So even though I encounter regularly people from many different places and cultures and am often inspired and encouraged by their skills, abilities, courage and differing perspectives on the world. Believe me I am very privileged to work with amazing and inspiring people, here are a couple so you can get a glimpse of how lucky I am to do the work I do;

Dr Cynthia Maung; my organisation works with hers, the Mae Tao Clinic to provide vital and essential health care to Burmese refugees and migrant workers. Her clinic treats over 100,000 patients per year. She also has community programs for local schools and health worker training programs. Dr Cynthia has won many human rights awards for her work – she is a fantastic person Dr Cynthia profile

K’nyaw Paw: Is a young Karen activist, she works for the Karen Women’s Organisation and through KWO my work APHEDA supports a range of projects. From caring for nursery school children and unacompanied minors who need dormitory housing to complete their education to Womens Capacity Building and empowerment programs. K’nyaw Paw is currently being profiled by the Nobel Women’s Initiative because of her comitment and dedication to advancing women’s causes. here is more about KWO.

Charm Tong: is SUCH an inspiration! Before she was 30 she has been pivotal in establishing the Shan Women’s Action Network and the School for Shan State Nationalities Youth. Like K’nyaw Paw she is also a key activist and lobbyist for womens issues with the Women’s League of Burma…. Did I mention she is the most busy person I know! Here is an article from when she won a human rights award: but for current activities check out the SSSNY school.

And they are just 3 of my colleagues/peers! I work on 30 projects on the Thai Burma Border. If you want to support any – just see our website www.apheda.org.au there is info about how to donate there (tax deductable if you are in Aus)

And from the Solomon’s:

The wonderful Merbilly, who is one of the first females to head an NGO in the Solomons. This woman has no limits! And the SKILLS project she is heading up is making real change in people’s lives: She is such a high achiever and the program is so lucky to have her

Merbilly is on the right (I am in the Middle) and our friend Margaret is on the left

The inspiring people from APHEDA’s community learning centres. These women are dedicating their time for little or no pay to ensure that the people in their community have opportunities to engage in learning and advancing themselves, either in practical skills (livelihoods and agriculture) or in numaracy and literacy. They are making a real difference;

And! Maybe you think I only find women inspiring… it is not true! Many men in both the Solomon Islands and Thai Burma Border dedicate themselves to bettering their community via working for non-government organisations, community based organisations and as volunteers. Here is my friend Grayham who I used to work with in the Solomons who is very committed to community and social justice issues. He is the only man in the Solomon Islands with Gender Studies qualifications, which is pretty amazingly progressive given the horrifically entrenched violence against women and women’s subjectification that occurs in that country – Grayham is a man committed to changing that – he needs all the support he can get 🙂 awesome guy.

Gray holding a workshop

But that is me, and my working life. Obviously my children will not come with me on work trips – so will they get the cultural exposure they need?

How will they, growing up in Australia with ‘white’ parents, feel not only ok about themselves? But connected to their cultural heritage, inspired to dream big, become whatever they want in the world etc. Where will they see role models and personal heroes?

Well, firstly. Husbot and I can never pretend to fully replicate our children’s cultural heritage; we can not and will not be able to raise our children in a replica Thai environment here inSydney. Although I go to Thailand often and know quite a bit about Thailand I can never pretend to understand Thai culture fully. In fact even people who live there for years cant.

That won’t be our ambition. But although Husbot and I are ‘white’ Australian and carry our own cultural baggage we do not now feel defined by our cultural heritage. We are hardly a ‘meat and potatoes’ family. Much of the way we live – being Buddhist (me), vegetarian (me), environmentally aware and embracing cultural traditions from other cultures (especially Tibet) may not be considered ‘fringe’ these days but is certainly a departure from the way our parents and grandparents lived. We can’t help but be influenced by years of living and working in Asia and the pacific and the close connection with communities we have embraced.

Many of our friends and colleagues were born overseas or born in Australia and still raised with their Asian cultural back ground. In our workplace in Sydney alone I have worked with people who were originally from; South Africa, Sri Lanka (Tamil), Indo-Fijian, Vietnam, Nepal, Indonesia, England, Chinese-Malay. Not only that but I work with people who are gay and lesbian, with people who are agnostic/ atheist, Christian (including Catholic, Quakers, Seventh Day Adventists, Baptists etc), Hindu, Buddhist and Muslim.

We are friends with the Tibetan community in Sydney (and Brisbane) and the many in the Burmese community and as well as participating in activist activities we go to Losar (Tibetan New Year) and celebrate His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s Birthday each year with the community. We celebrate Karen New Year and usually I have been in Thailand for Loi Kratong (but not this year 😦 )

And our friends are a lovely mix of people born in Australia and people not born inAustralia, and people born in Australia but have a diverse cultural background.

Here is a photo of a good friend of mine and her husband at their wonderfully colourful wedding in Nepal that Husbot and I were privileged to attend; 

In other words through us, our children will not only be surrounded by white people, they will know children with diverse backgrounds and will be able to see many people in various professional capacities with diverse backgrounds as role models.

But, children do not only experience their world view from their parents. And like I said before the number of times our children contact our work colleagues will probably be limited. So what about the wider community where we live?

Well I was surprised when someone recently commented that the area we lived in was exclusive and all white! Apparently that is the perception of Sydney’s north by people who don’t live here.

But they see this area very differently to how I see it! So who was right? Who was wrong? To get the answer I consulted the statistics (from census) listed on this website:  Northside Community Forum

Which says: The Northern Sydney region is a culturally and linguistically diverse region with 33.5% (240,380 people) of its population born overseas, which is significantly higher than the NSW average of 23.8% and the Australian average of 22.2%. Moreover, 21.7% (158,212 people) of its residents speak a language other than English (LOTE) at home, which is slightly higher than the NSW average of 20.1% and a lot higher than the Australian average of 15.8% (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2007; Department of Immigration and Citizenship, 2008).

With the Warringah area (where we live) always appearing in the top 3 in terms of diversity in languages other then English, and people born overseas.

But I knew that already! Because as I said before (it takes a village) we have already selected the school we want our children to go too – Dee Why Public School – it has children from 36 Nationalities in attendance, it is quite close to where we live and we are sure it will be sensitive to any special needs our children will have (we know they run a special program for Tibetan refugees who may need special attention so we are sure they will be sensitive to any adoption issues that could arise).

So I feel assured that our children will certainly not feel constrained by an all ‘white’ Australian upbringing. I think also they will not feel that we tried to replicate some sort of fake Thai existence in Sydney (by buying Thai food and hanging up a few decorations from holidays in Thailand)…. In fact at this stage I predict complete cultural mish-mash. LOL there are worse things that can happen!

I think I said before that after celebrating Australian/Western New Year, then Losar (Tibetan New Year), Karen New Year, and possibly Songkran (if the weather permits water throwing!) my children will either be wondering which one is the ‘real’ new year….. Or think that 4 years have passed in a few short months!!  Very funny!

Maybe you remeber my post from last time I was in Thailand? (Thailand, I like you! Why don’t you like me?)

Anyway I was noticing how whenever I go to Thailand… something bad happens!!! Well I am off to Thailand again on friday and I just recieved this message from a friend of mine who lives in Thailand:

“so it is your  fault thailand is flooding!

Thailand realised you were headed over again and has bought out the spectacular flood waters!
(am kidding… but boy, do you sure know when to come to thailand!)”
Now I dont feel so bad about my paranoia!
Anyway the floods look awful and I hope they stop. Like soon. Like today.

To follow up on my post about the street dogs of Thailand, compassion

Here is something you can do if you are concerned about the treatment of dogs, sign the petition to stop the dog meat trade in Thailand: http://www.soidog.org/en/you-can-help-stop-the-dog-meat-trade/

I really believe that the most humane way of dealing with stray dogs is too;

1. adopt them into loving homes 🙂 but of course that probably will not happen for all the strays in Thailand

or

2. De-sex (Sterilize) them. So there is not a constant abundance of new unwanted dogs. Having many puppies is a huge strain on the mummy dog and causes her malnutrition (when she is a street dog with barely enough food for herself). The kindest thing is for these dogs to be de-sexed to cut numbers of unwanted dogs.

Udders gets some much needed food from Friends after another litter

Soi Dogs is an organisation who do that. They have also organised the petition above.

Care for Dogs is another organisation based in Chiang Mai. They also do de-sexing. AND! They are currently looking for a forever home for my friend Udder’s puppy called Dumpling – who is SOOOOO cute!

Dumpling and his mum (Udders) on the streets in Mae Sot

There is also a video of Dumpling to attract a forever home…. get ready to say ‘awwwwww’

I am paying to two of my friends de-sexed; Udders and Joon. Hopefully someone will pay for Jet to be de-sexed now that she has had her puppies.

It is the least I can do.

On the day I flew out of the North of Thailand a magnitude 7 earthquake struck the Thai Burma Border. Up high past Mae Sai in Thailand right near Tachileik on the Burma side.

I am so sad for the people who are experiencing this terrible tradgedy. They already have to suffer so much and now there is this.

I am still waiting to hear back from all the people I work with in the area. My main partners are ok, but the communities they work with are directly effected and they are reporting back to me what people are going through;

  • people are very frightened and were still feeling aftershocks on Friday
  • people were weary as they were too afraid to sleep
  • there were reports that small towns were running out of coffins for the dead

But mostly the reports were that the communities were helping and supporting each other. These are very reslient folk.

I will post more if the aid organisation I work for is asked to help more and if we do an appeal. It is very hard for people to contact those in the area and get the news of what is needed out.

for those who are dead and injured, safe passage through the bardo.

with metta, Zoe

da dum… da dum…. da dum… (do you hear the jaws music?) dadum dadum dadum dadum aaaarrrgh! (it got me!)

yes that is how I feel about language lessons! hahahahaha

Husbot and I are going to met with our Thai language tutor here in Sydney for the first time tonight and I am SO scared. Why? Because I am really really bad at learning languages.

Husbot is quite good though. So I even though I am the one who has been going to Thailand 2 times per year for the last 5 years for work and will do so in the future and he has only be there a few times he will probably be a fluent Thai speaker when we finally become parents and I will be the one who can only say “Sawadee Ka”(=Hello) and “Kop khun ka”(=thank you) to our pikininni. : (

I have learnt a few teeny little other things via my years of exposure, like jai for vegitarian (pad thai jai kop khun ka = yummy!), and Towlai (=how much) helps a but with the shopping ; ) but really it is a bit pathetic. Although in my defense when I am in Thailand I do spend a lot of time with people from Burma, so they speak Karen language, Shan and Burmese (and others) so you know… you can’t learn them all!

This teacher sounds nice though so I should not be scared. One of my friends reccomended her…. mind you that friend can speak English, Spanish and Japanese fluently… and now Thai and is starting on Burmese (or Karen?) so I don’t think she finds is as mind-jumblingly hard as me or as knee-rattlingly scary.

I can’t explain why it fills me with dread. I love hearing other people speak different languages. But I have tried to learn a few and it seems to be a combination of memory and rules, which gets so twisted up in my head. Plus it is just so hard to hear the differences in sounds sometimes – let alone make those sounds!

But I love my future children and I AM going to learn Thai!

I can hear some asking…. what about when you lived in the Philippines? Didn’t you learn Tagalog? No is the answer, it is not that easy.

I lived on Bohol, so I did learn some Visayan/Cebuano/Boholano. This is the same language. It is called Visayan because all people in the Visaya’s region speak it as well as thier local dialect (if they have one still) and also as well as Tagalog. Filippino’s grow up with 3 or 4 languages from infancy (including English which is taught at school). So while most Filippino’s are really lovely, friendly and patient people I found that most did not understand why I could only speak English and found it quite hard to develop an ear for a multi-lingual society (as Australia is a mono-culture). Most of my colleagues wanted me to learn Visayan (which we call Boholano in Bohol, and people call Cebuano in Cebu!) VERY quickly and some became a bit annoyed when it took me a long time.

Added to this was two difficulties. One: I was in the Philippines to work with an Indigenous community who were struggling to preserve their traditional culture including their unique language. So I spent a lot of time in their Barangays with elders and chiefs and others who were holding language schools etc in their traditional language. Muddling my head (langugage wise) even more.

The second difficulty was my language tutor. She was VERY impatient with me (and two friends who were also taking the course). She was ok at first but quit on us when it was clear that we did not go to church! hahahaha. Here is one of our last lessons…

teacher (in Visayan): What did you do on Sunday?

Me (in Visayan): I read a book and then we had some visitors in the afternoon.

teacher (in Visayan): no that is incorrect!

Me (in Visayan): A book I read and then we host some guests??

teacher (in Visayan): no that is incorrect!

Me (in Visayan): Um….. people came to our house for a party?

teacher (In English): No that is incorrect!

Me (In English): I dont know how to say it correctly! What am I doing wrong?

Teacher (In Visayan): On Sunday you go to church!

um…….. no. No I don’t. Then she said we knew enough and the rest we should play by ‘ear’ (um… we had no ear – we were learning!) and left it too us. hahahaha

However I did learn enough to talk to taxi drivers so they did not give me the rip-off fare. To order vegetarian food in restaurants (which is HARD in the Philippines! hahahaha) and to make some polite chit chat to families that hosted me when I visited the indigenous people Barangay’s (such gems as… ‘Your house is nice!’ and  ‘I like your dog’).  As is usual with languages I could understand what people where talking about at a greater level then I could speak. However the longer it has been since I have been there the more I forget. I am probably back to just hello and thank you now : ( …. actually I can still remember ‘I like your dog’ ; )

So my history with learning languages has not been great. I have managed to pick up quite a bit of Pidgen from the Solomon Islands BUT it is a pidgen so there is a LOT of English in there. In other words – they made it easy for me : )

Anyway, I will write in a few months. Hopefully triumphant about how it is not as hard as I thought….. the real test will be next time I go to Thailand (in a few months) to see if I have made some improvements.

Wish me luck!!!

this video!

I think the Phayathai Babies Home do a great job with this video. To explain how they do their work and the care they take. Also to explain how they are truly trying to find families for the children in their care. It is really touching.

Anyway of course though I am a sooky waiting mum so the tears came thinking… it that my baby? maybe that one peeking out from the cot there? or playing on the mat? or of course the beautiful smiling laughing baby at the end…. how can I help it?

All of these things are not in my control

So my plan is to catch up on some slack blogging with some ‘year in review blogs’ …. I hope it works.

Anyway I wanted to write more about being in Thailand when I was in Thailand but work was too busy and internet conections were too slow to allow. So I am doing it in reflection.

Do I think more about my future family while in Thailand? no, it is impossible for me to think about it more – because I think about it ALL THE TIME! hahahaha but I guess I do very deliberatly try to use the time to ensure that there is a genuine connection between Thailand and me. It helps that Husbot was able to come for a little bit this time.

For example I spent my 3rd Loi Kratong in Thailand this year and it was great. I have celebrated Loi Kratong in different Thai towns now so I think this has given me a great experience where I am able to understand that not every place celebrates the same way – there are subtle differences. But if I was to just read about Loi Kratong in a book ‘Thai Culture for Adoptive parents Looking to Connect with their Child’ etc then I guess I would not know that…. maybe.

Husbot launching his Loi Kratong 'khom loi' or hot air balloon tofloat our hopes away...

But on the otherhand do I look at Thai kids in the street and see their faces and then imagine I am seeing the face of my future child…. well no, not really. The kids you see are so well loved often to the point of being ‘spoilt’ (or so it seems) and it is just impossible for me to imagine that little face as one who may end up in an orphanage – I would feel like I am wishing ill over them. So I dont even go there in my mind… (maybe that sounds crazy…)

Also I am working while I am in Thailand – this last trip is the first one that I have had some holiday time! So I am mostly with Burmese people and the organisations they run for the migrant worker and refugee community. I have a strange time in Thailand…. yes I am in Thailand but I spend most of my time with Burmese people!

But yes I DO feel a connection – and I do build that connection too. Like this time Husbot and I took Thai cooking lessons and made yummy Thai food – I learned Pad Thai Jay, Pad See-Ew Jay and Mango with sticky rice (desert) Husbot learned green curry Jay, fish cakes (no good for me), and Chicken and cashew Nut (no good for me)…. so far since we have returned we have made the Pad Thai Jay and the Green Curry Jay – they were both yum!! We are also trying to learn Thai language but are not progressing far – we think we need a tutor here in Australia.

me cooking .... yes it DID happen!see, I will do anything for my future children!

I dont know what I am trying to say – nothing profound! I am lucky that I get to travel to Thailand often as it affords me the chance to make this connection with Thailand genuine, I have been traveling there for years and I will continue too. And for the sake of our future children and ourselves I think this is very important. But just going there does not make the connection happen – I dont know that you can say you know Thailand (or anywhere) just because you have been there a lot, we still need to break down the language barrier etc to make sure it is not just tokenism. We feel committed to this process…. it should be an enjoyable one!

at Wat Umong

I love temple doggies : )

so this week in Thailand I met a friend who previously I had only corresponded with via email and she is…. the first real life person I have met who has adopted a Thai child…. wow!

All my other contacts are virtual… lovely but not face to face. The face to face ones I know have adopted through other programs (China and the Pacific) as expats or through other country programs.

It has been a long and hard road for this mother – and since she has only had her little boy in her care for 2 months she is not through the long and hard part yet! Still very much at the getting to know each other – getting to love each other – figuring it all out stage. She is amazing, because she is doing it as a single mum – I can’t imagine it. I can’t imagine figuring out the process and negotiating the years of waiting on my own let alone trying to parent on my own – but she is just taking it all in. And being VERY REAL about how things are. It was good to hear.

I did not meet her little boy because he was at school. Yes that is right school. He was in institutional care for 4 years waiting for the system to match him with his Mum.While she was waiting for more then 2.5 years…. so they could have been together more then 2 years ago when he was 2 or 3 not 5, what difference that would have made to their lives will never be known now.

Anyway for me it was both inspirational yes and also an experience that brought me down to earth because it made me realise that yes there is an end… you do get there in the end… and yes reality is intense.

For all of us waiting peeps my friend had advice… don’t waste your waiting time – do all the things you have always wanted to do now, because the family you dream about eventually does come and then they are 100% of your time. It seems obvious but it is good to get a reminder isnt it : )