Experience of Mekong Peace Journey (MPJ) 2012
by May Aung Su, Myanmar
In our team, we have five members from different background, ethnic and places. Before we go for a trip, we have some orientation about our journey. My journey is to learn new things and it began when I met with my Myanmar team at Departure of Yangon International Airport to start for the journey. I have not enough ideas to think how the journey would make us to be unity, to be one and to be connected. I only thought how I could spend three weeks in another place which I never been with the strange people. To leave my work and my family behind made me feel something uncomfortable even though I have good enough motivation to learn new things.
After forty five minutes taking flight, spend around thirty minutes for immigration, I said HELLO to the Bangkok traffic. I thought here in Yangon, we have a terrible traffic, but I really appreciate the Thailand people who are really patient for travelling in the Bangkok which is a big modern city with a big traffic. At lunch time, it was started to meet with new friends from Laos firstly at Thai Volunteers Service Foundation which is host organization for our Mekong Journey. We introduced each other where we are from and what’s our name and so on. I was not able to recognize their name at that time and I was thinking it is really difficult to memorize the new names in shortly but later on it was not what I think. I spent about two hours in the office and I went to the Plaza which is nearest to the place we stayed. It is first time for me in Bangkok, and then I have so many things to learn but for me in the city, it was just a flashy time.
In evening about 6:00pm, we started on our Mekong Journey to Chiang Khong. I did not realize I am on a long journey starting from that day. In dawn, the mountains, trees and beautiful sky of Chaing Khong woke me up, and then I could say “Morning”, it is far 12 hours driving from Bangkok. When we arrived in the teacher camp, it is the place we would stay for next three weeks, it was around 9 am and a sunny morning. When I took off the bus, I saw the view of flowing river with surrounded mountains under the shining sun, which is our beloved Mekong. I smiled on myself as my habit when I see a lake/ river/sea and whispered myself softly that “Hello again Mekong” as I made my first greeting to Mekong at Cambodia on the way to Ho Chi Min City.
My friend, I know that I am not being able to tell you everything in detail that I learned from the journey with a few word because we discussed, shared and learned on so much things during three weeks. But in brief, in our training, we were introduced about the basic concept of Peace and Conflict, how to analysis on the root cause of conflict, personal reflection on inner peace and some topics addressed to the tools to respond to Conflict and some on political sciences and some which covered on the basic concept of Peace and Conflict Studies.
Apart from the theoretical sections and easy-happy sections, there is the media workshop for us consisting of Writing, Photography and Filming, which is the interesting section for me. In this section, we are divided into three groups that we could make freely choosing to include in which group. I was in the photography group, as you knew I am not really good at writing. And I loved taking photos by myself or to be taken. I understand that these three things are working together for the media to make people know what is happening in the universe. Nevertheless I think a nice photo or picture is able to express the meaning of something which is important. As we knew and as far as we have experiences in the trainings, we did not have these kinds of experiences that is the perfect combination of topics/theory and media which motivate us as a youth to act something in a way we can start easily and meaningfully in the concept of peace building.
Another interesting section is the community visit to local villages. In community visit, we are assigned to take pictures on what we see and learn as a photography member. We have three communities visit in Thailand, Laos and Myanmar. First trip for community visit is at Thailand‘s village, named Ban Hoai Luke which is situated along Mekong River. We have two hours boat trip to the village for the brand new experiences even though only 45 minutes with the bus. Then I can feel and contact with the beauty of nature; flowing river, growing green trees and local small houses along the river. In the village, there are unforgettable memories such as culture show from our friends and the village and the food I have tasted in that place. It was really lucky for me to have a taste such a kind of fish soup, mushroom soup and pounded chilly with the sticky rice. The whole village only eat the sticky rice for the whole day meal with the soup as far as I saw. It is a nice village in well-being of economic, education and also communication. We have some beautiful memories by staying one night in the village.
Then the second trip was to Laos, which is the place of the other side of where I stayed at Chaing Khong and the view I was looking at every morning and evening from the other side of Mekong River. During the trip, we stayed at hotel and visited around the village and tried to explore about the things in a short time we have. Invaluable thing I got in the trip is the experience of walking in evening along the river with my friends and conversation with the local man. I will tell the story of that evening because it was raining suddenly while we walked so we have to find the place to rest while raining. Luckily we have found a house which is a food shop. And then the luckiest thing is we got a good chance to have a conversation with the local man who lived and worked there for a long time about the things of the village and also about Mekong countries including our Myanmar. But I still have the other luckiest thing which is having a Lao friend with me who can be a bridge between us as who cannot speak their native language and the local man. I learned a lot from our conversation such things as the important role of environmental projects and life of their family and knew about new ideas too. I have a nice photo from the village too.
Here is the most interesting and another invaluable trip to Mei Sai and Chiang Sai when we cannot visit to Kyaing Tong with our MPJ friends as we departed from Yangon International Airport Immigration. So separately from our friends, we have a precious time with the children lived along the border for three days. The volunteers for children development foundation was a host organization for us. The organization is also being a host place for the people, who lived along the border and at the bridge in Mei Sai, when they want to come and stay at the house near bridge, they feel free to visit and stay overnight. It is also like a recreation center for the children since they could do reading, playing and learning about computer and so on. Our team had a picnic with the children; it was really nice to spend time with them by playing and making Papaya Salad competition. At night, we have a walking around Mei Sai; actually it was a monitoring walk for the people especially stateless because the staff walked around and looked for the people who need help in health or some other thing. I really appreciate the organization and staffs for what they are doing and spending their time with the stateless children and their parents.
After Mei Sai, we went to Chaing Sai, the place had a camp for the children who chose their life there and who would like to improve themselves for their brighter future. According to the conversation, the children are between 2 and half years to 19 years and the amount of round about 60 children totally in that place. In the camp, they have their own classroom for the children who are just new or young and cannot go to school yet. Most of the children attended the primary school and even university. Our team had some activities with the children especially game like drawing, dancing and playing at night. We stayed there one night, so we spent time with them at night. In the next day morning, we made some teaching with the children who cannot go to school yet. It was a very new experience for me.
And I met a cute little girl named in Na Na, she is only a four years old. When she made her drawing, she showed the broken pieces as a fish. What I saw in her drawing was only pieces of something but when I asked her, she said it is a fish. I just wondered her drawing. Most of the children drawn a broken pieces in the picture but they explained it as a fish or a present or a complete picture. I was thinking and trying to explore what are their real feelings from the bottom of their little hearts through their drawings. But I did not have an answer for it.
The next day afternoon, when Na Na knew I am leaving, she was sitting alone and cry surprisingly even though I met her for one night and half day only. But her feelings also touch my mind a lot. I was trying to talk to her and make changing her comfortable. Even though she as a child was fine after talking with me, I was painful on her questions that are why and where I am leaving after we met. Actually I have no proper answer for her question. Continuously she said she will also go to Yangon with her family as her dream for the future. Those words from little girl who is surviving alone apart from her family made my heart painful. Na Na, only a little girl gave me many questions to ask myself about pluralism, nationalism, and the root causes of the problem and our identities also. In the camp, most of the children are from Myanmar (according to conversation with authorized person from the camp) , our own country and are being taking care of the people from other identity which we think as an important role of our life or the people were not be able to choose a Myanmar as their identity. And they are living in the border area which is the place of combined identities and mixed culture from both countries. As far as I saw, the children are still young, they have a few chance to choose their own identity being as an original from Myanmar.
And how can we take our responsibilities for it? I cannot answer and find solution for my own questions till I was leaving from them and their place was far and far behind me. I still keep asking question what will be the answer for the stateless people and this kind of innocent children like Na Na. My dear friend, how will you answer this question?