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Chances, opportunities, your action or struggle in the flow - 08 November 2008 Back to stories index

The sky pattern, fly away and fly to

My childhood was a poor and difficult life, but still we did not pass a day without something to eat thanks to our parents’ relentless struggle and sacrifice. My family of seven lived in a 400 square feet one bedroom apartment for more than 25 years. During these years we did not know much about what was going on outside of our country. Even within our country we had not been to many places as we did not have enough money and time to travel.

When I asked my parents that I wanted to travel to know the things their reply was I would know when I grew up. I was frustrated and impatient. But when sometimes they tried to explain about life my knowledge was far from enough to understand. There were a lot of why's because it seemed like what was going on in the world of grownups was totally unacceptable to us children. We did not clearly realize that we were confined to a child's world and could not see the complexity of the human relationship, business, and so many things.

When I was 16 I first learnt the hard lesson of chance and opportunity. It was not your fault, not because you could do less good if given the chance; or something logical and acceptable as we knew it. It was just chance and circumstances and the world you are in.

When I and my elder brother passed the high school final in the same year my family had problem because they could send only one to the college, and on top of that the other one had to work to chip in to the family income. After a discussion they finally followed the tradition: if boy and girl, the boy goes to the school. if two boys or two girls, the younger and/or the brighter goes to the school. in our case I did not get higher scores in the examination. But my brother used to fail one year and is older than me. I looked good at math and physic so that was me who would continue the education.

I feel the guilt to today when I think about how my brother started working at just over 16 as a labor cum helper, and for all those many years that still keep going. He has only been able to slowly go up the often sticky and complicated corporate ladder in a rather snail pace. He studied correspondence course to get a college degree. Only after nearly 30 years of hard work he reached a position of standard technician officer in the company he never leaves to this day.

During these 30 years my life was a total difference. I got the formal education I wanted, did many different works, changed jobs, and I was mostly outside of my country during the last 18 years. My mind, my thinking, my belief have been changed with my experiences.

I remember my parents saying that I would know when old enough. I would like to add something to this - you would know when you are old enough and have chance and if you put effort to see through the things. All my life experience teaches me that things I don't know (I would never know most of them) is always much much much... more than things I know to some level but still may not be correct. This applies to all and every single case and there is no exception. But what is important for survival of the first kind is you have to more or less fit into the model or trend of human community that surrounds you at the same time you live and where you are. Yes "at the same time". You might fit into the kind of society that would exist between the next 200 to 300 years, or between the last 400 to 300 years. Would you please like to leave home this evening and come (came) back 350 years before to enjoy a happier life?

On the other hand it is true that people follow (or float with a small or big or no paddle) in the kinds of complex flow that contains qualities and attributes such as trends, love, respect, trust, chance, opportunities, comparison, gauging, ability or lack of that, etc. People often try to paddle to the position where they could have some degree of control of the flow or other floaties. People might sometimes even try to block the way of other fellow members in the flow. However what is true is every one must one day leave this flow for good.

However, by necessity, people always expand their knowledge by discovering the new and inventing new means to know more even though we know we will never hit the end; that accidentally creates a by product "greed".

There will always be lies, pretending, wearing empty smiles, lots of hollow "thank you", making coffee for someone bigger for an expectation, multiple standards, bias, changing or editing of information for purpose, and so on. These things contradict to the written laws and rules, declarations, ethics, teaching of religions; and make things adults quite unbelievable to the children.

The leaves on grass - the wind, the trees, the weather, the buildings... a random distribution... or by chance

Sometimes ago I had chance to meet with three remarkable peoples in Thailand. One of them worked in the Bangkok office of a charity organization, the other one being a refugee or sort of currently residing in Europe, and the third one was in a refugee camp in Mae Sot district bordering Myanmar.

The first person worked in an organization that collected donation money and sent them to the victims of cyclone Nagris that hit parts of Myanmar (Burma) in early May 2008. Because of his role in these activities he was mentioned in the media as a kind helping and respectable person along with his colleagues. They were invited for a high society party, a party of non profit and or non governmental associations, and loved by people.

This friend asked me for some interpretation help with the auditing team checking their document. As a charity under a large religious organization they need auditor to review and report.

That was when I came to know first hand knowledge about (hopefully just a few of) the so-called world's assistance and volunteering activities and what are under the face book of world's popular media. First of all that friend did not possess a proper visa and work permit to do such activities according to Thailand law. I have worked in Thailand for 8 years; I know that they as a citizens of certain 40 something countries have privilege to visit Thailand without visa (a fact not many people of the world know) but to do activities other than visit non-Thai people needs proper visa and permit. Second, their beautiful temporary office opened in a beautiful religious organization compound was not registered. Third - be prepared to get surprised - is that after the audit it was found that less than 10% of total donation were actually sent to the refugee camps as relief items. I will give you a little information. They spent a lot of money on air tickets of foreign volunteers, hotels, other travel expenses, office rent, furniture, and so on. For example, one beautiful wooden table in their office was bought for more than 100,000 Thai Baht (it is about 3030 USD if you use the exchange rate 1 USD = 33 Thai Baht). Another more than 50,000 Thai Baht was spent for a large color TV. A lot of so many kinds of expenses were for their staff, office and living, etc. On top of these, in the Accounting procedure they used such depreciation rate for all their organization assets that would make the values of all of them "zero" at the end of their operation!

Before talking about the second person I want to tell you about a meeting with a friend over a coffee at a corner of Radchadapiset road and a smaller street in Bangkok, next to a large entertainment complex. That friend had just emerged from a quarterly corporate meeting of clients’ entertainment type. He was comparing our childhood and adulthood. He said when he was a kid he used to try to understand what the adult people were talking about but could not get all of them. So he thought the adult people must belong to a very higher class of human being. Now he himself was a grownup. He understood that he was wrong. He now believed the adults were no higher class than children. Then I asked what did he wear 45 minutes ago. The answer was "nothing".

I happened to know the second person at a two storey high end home in a gated garden of a couple who have been working in a not for profit organization for more than 12 years. I was waiting for the couple to come home from a shopping in front of their main door with a glass of orange juice in a tray provided by their maid. When the Toyota SUV sports car came in I saw a third person in the car. The friend couple introduced me to their friend. He lived in western Europe. He came here to collect some needed document from his parent home in Myanmar. He used to work in the government revenue department throughout 1990's. At the end of the 20th century he resigned and somehow managed to leave the country. He was recently granted by a European government a political asylum, and he came back here to get his document from home. I asked how one person could get that status. At first he was reluctant to talk. Later, after a big dinner and some drinks he gave me some hints. One way or his way is to know someone "there", make friend with them, and follow their activities, and try to make yourselves printed in the media. For example he was photographed several times while he was demonstrating with others and published in the news. These became part of the proof for his application.

In a summer month of 2008 I went to mountain areas with students for their outdoor challenge requirement. When I came back from the nature trip I stopped over a night in Mae Sot. I thought about if there was still another way while I was eating in a restaurant. Like the answer from the sky a friend of mine drove in with a lady. He just came back from a refugee camp. He is a native of the area and a head man of a village. He speaks both Thai and Burmese like native languages. He asked me if I could help the lady. I asked for more explanation. She came from a city in Myanmar several months ago to stay in a refugee camp. Before she came the family sold some of their properties to raise money for her to spend while in the camp. She had a small shop in the camp selling things from Myanmar to other refugees. At that time people from the UN and local organizations were collecting information about the refugees there to screen for relocation to a third country. She needed to make up something and translated into English. I was surprised and at the same time smiled. Now I knew one new way. I asked why she could not ask other people there for help. She said people were not very friendly at the camp, especially since she sold things to others who also were dependent on small refugee money or money sent from home, there were always small problems.

Struggle of the one kind, fighting the cold for a sleep, never give up - Thai national park rangers

I remembered Myanmar migrant workers I met working hard labor jobs a few days back. They worked in the farms kinds of bending your body and carrying heavy loads repetitively. Their earning was just Thai Baht 60 to 80 for a 10 hour working day – that is when they had job. They came here because of hardship and lack of opportunities, political unrest, etc. at home. They did not have proper education or educational tickets, and things that were required to pass the screening process to be selected to relocate to a third country such as Japan, USA, Canada, Australia, and Norway. I had a chance to talk to these (unfortunate) people. According to them to be eligible for relocation they needed to pass tests on education, health, language, background, and should have recommendations or references. They did not have all of them except that they might pass health test. Basically if it is believed that they could become useful people in a third country, they have higher chance to pass. Only a few percentage of total population in the camps would pass. All the un-selected people will remain as illegal migrants in Thailand for some times.

Finally I could not refrain myself and asked frankly whether she was a real refugee. She just waved her head right and left.

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