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Published: February 12th 2013
I'm sitting here in this internet computer room with the old crummy computer because the middle school thai boys have taken all the nice flat screen monitored computers to play mine craft. they are shouting to each other, evidently all playing the same game. The temperature has cooled at least 20 degrees from the day (high of 102 today) and the fans blow in the smells from dinner because the family who runs this place is eating in the back room. On the other side of the room, the door to the outside is propped open, and bicycles and cars coast by, and the occasional dog wanders nearby, wary of people but hungry.
Moments like this, I can see that a tiny border town is actually doing quite well, and Thailand has indeed raised itself from status of "third-world" to arguably one of the only second-world countries in SE Asia. Then again, Thais aren't the only ones living here. When my student showed me his school last week, he pointed out all the schools along the way. A grand stately white building with fresh paint and a wall and fence in good repair was a Thai high school. Literally across the street, with a mirroring driveway, with a dirt front yard, mismatched corrugated metal sheets for a roof, was a Burmese school.
Depending on things I don't understand yet, some of my students have ID cards that say they are legal to be in the country until they are 21. Others run the risk of being stopped by police and deported. Apparently it was especially bad 2 years ago, when the police were making intensive, concerted sweeps of the area, rounding up migrants and sending them back (unless they can pay the bribe, of course). During this time, the students from the school where I work in the evening mandated that the students not leave school. Which is hard, because the school is a 3 room building, with a dorm next door. One girl said to an Australian teacher who volunteers every year, "I understand, but we have nothing to do here. It would be so much easier if we had a TV." Which is how the school's flatscreen TV came to be.
Some teachers I know now work in schools where the students can't leave, not ever. They've been there for a year now, and haven't left the grounds, which consist of just a few buildings the size of houses, and the space between.
I guess it gives me a different perspective on being able to just go to 7-11 or go for a walk. It's crazy for me to imagine that the only way they can find freedom from civil war is to imprison themselves in a foreign country.
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