Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Winds of Change

Thai visa application was accepted in Jakarta, followed by 24 hours of travel back to Mae Sot. My previous volunteer position has ended in my absence as my students were accepted into a post-10 school, their version of university, congratulations! I was intent on continuing to teach but I was planning on moving out of the group's home upon returning with Eline anyway. We have checked into a $4 a night guesthouse with a primitive kitchen and a beautiful balcony where we will spend the next couple of weeks.

The current plan is to move to Rangoon (aka Yangon) as soon as possible. A Katrina-sized cyclone unexpectedly jumped out of the Bay of Bengal into the Irrawaddy River Delta killing an estimated 10,000 people and making over a million homeless. In Yangon, the capital city to the East of the river delta, 59 people were killed and major damage done to the infrastructure.

In the Bangkok airport, news agencies have personnel holding signs directed at tourists returning from Yangon asking for any photos coming from the region. There is a huge lack of information coming from within. A task for me? Perhaps.

The national referendum vote for the pro-junta constitution was scheduled on May 10th. This date will be upheld in the majority of the country except in the disaster areas where voting will be pushed back to May 24th. Due to the secretive nature of SPDC, the controlling junta, relief workers including UN employees are being denied visas until after the referendum vote, I am told.

In the coming weeks Eline and I are going to try a few avenues for visa acquisition though it sounds like we will have to wait just like everyone else. Using Mae Sot contacts, we are going to get in touch with a school in Yangon for the opportunity to obtain 10 week work visas. Meanwhile, a boarding school on summer holiday needs some sort of summer classes to entertain a gaggle of kids too far from home to return for break.

Indonesian photos soon!