Jeanna

Hey There

My blog died.

It appears to have happened somewhere around the New Year.

The good new is, I didn’t – I’ve just been busy.

2014 started with a challenge – asking for money. I created an IndieGoGo online fundraiser to support my final months with Partners Relief and Development in Thailand (Hey, Midwest, I’m coming back to you – July 2014). It was wildly successful and I’m forever grateful. Because of your generosity – I was able to get so. much. done. In the last five months I:

Went to Burma. My days were spent wondering the city, admiring textiles and reading in teashops. My evenings staying up late at sidewalk cafes eating barbecued pork and drinking Myanmar beer with my friend Ah Fu. Talking about Burma. And America. About opportunities and barriers. About the things that have changed. And the things that haven’t.

I was promoted in the Social Development Department at Partners, becoming supervisor of the Migrant Community Support program. The staff I train have helped multiple families navigate the complicated migrant medical care system, hosted trainings on hand washing and are working with leaders to increase sanitation practices and decrease disease. They’re developing a new mother support group and facilitating a bi-monthly workshop aimed to increase self-esteem in children affected by trauma.

My Manager and I have been working on the redevelopment of our training materials with the hope that our staff will bring Community Support Work training to Shan State. They’ll start training some of their peers at Shan Youth Power in Chiang Mai this summer.

I had the honor of dragging my best friend around Thailand. Bangkok. Krabi. Chiang Mai. We ate a lot of food and took photos of the empty plates. Read books on the beach and almost accidentally stole a baby. We climbed up waterfalls and cruised the countryside in a 60s VW beetle. We made clear dents in every market visited.

Back in the office I created a system for calculating the costs of our woven products. Better organization in our pricing system means more money in the hands of our weavers. Most of whom are farmers, using weaving as a supplemental income used for school fees, medical care and household items like soap.

And, I learned how to weave. I made a shirt and bag with the help of many. For a week I spent time with our weavers in Na Klang Nua learning about them, their families, their thoughts about weaving and the craft itself. There was some time with elephants too.

None of this would have been possible without your love and support. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

In the next month, I’ll be working hard to bring my projects to a place where they’re sustainable without me. I’m working through a mini Chiang Mai bucket list – today, I’m determined to find the Textiles Museum. And spending quality time with friends at my favorite spots throughout the city.

I hope this note finds you all well. Be seeing you soon …

xx

January

Happy New Year! & Happy ONE Year to me, to me. It’s almost here. On the 21st I’ll be visiting Rangoon (Yangon), Burma. BURMA. How awesome is that? I mean, last year at this time I was freaking out (& by freaking out I mean over-consuming pasta, cheese & wine).

I had a lot of expectation. Do you remember? I packed all my ‘old clothes’. I was going to learn a few languages & the craft of weaving. I was going to spend my days with the people of Burma & climb mountains. Then I landed & nothing was as expected. My old clothes – were well, old & out of place in Chiang Mai. I lost the little I knew of Karen to make room for Thai (which is entirely food-focused). My role was behind a computer, not a loom. Most of my friends are American & the mountains I set out to climb had paved roads with bus schedules. Where was the adventure? Where was the fish paste?

As I spend time in reflection over the last year – I’ve accepted – being here is the adventure. & something like making friends in a foreign land is an accomplishment in itself. Things have been different than expected sure, but you know what? Overall, they’ve been great. Pig roasts at a farm that feels like home. Motorbike road trips to … anywhere. Ma & Pa shops that know my order. Becoming a rice fan addict. Stumbling through cultural adjustments, systems & quirks.

Professionally, my world view was opened beyond Karen refugee resettlement to Burma as a whole – Shan state, Arakan state, Kachin State & so on. I’ve learned about the complexities of war & peace. About migrant life & international NGOs. About teaching, not doing. About sustainable, community based development. About sincere listening & positive empowerment.

Just last week I was able to travel to the border with a team from the Karen Organization of Minnesota. Where, life – for a few days, was exactly how I expected the entire year to go. The rocky mountain paths were steep, the bamboo bed (floor) was hard, the bucket showers cold & fish paste was served at every meal. I tried weaving again. As we drove into the mountains, I realized – the roads & villages were familiar. In the camps I gave the lesson on bathing in a longyi. As it turns out, the exciting – rugged life I’d been craving, was the life I’ve been living more often than not.

Spending time with loved ones from MN was a full circle reunion in which l was reminded of why I came & realized just how much I’ve learned since being here. I feel renewed in energy & spirit. & while I may know more about Thai food than anything else, but my heart is more with Burma than ever before.

Thank you, for being a part of this experience with me. The ups & downs. The expected & the unexpected. I’m eternally grateful for the kind words & continued support* in all senses of the word. Cheers to you & yours in the new year.

xo

*two days left on my IndieGoGo campaign, thanks for all of you who have donated. If you still want to join the party in these last hours – check it out!

TOP TEN HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES IN BURMA 2013

It’s not over.

U.S. Campaign for Burma

Join us in celebrating Blog Action Day 2013 – Human Rights with our Top Ten List of Human Rights Abuses in Burma. Over the course of 2013, Burmese government officials have reached out to western nations to convince them to lift sanctions and invest in Burma. But these very same government officials continue to be responsible for ordering human rights abuses. Which human rights abuses have been particularly egregious in 2013? Keep reading to find out…

10. Land Confiscation

New foreign investment has led the government to confiscate millions of acres to use for mega development projects (e.g. mining, dams, pipelines). Two 2012 farmland laws stripped Burma’s farmers of the right to property – the government owns all “private” land, and farmers who protest seizures face severe penalties. Private, military, and government enterprises have been allowed to forcibly relocate entire towns, and destroy homes, religious buildings, and land without…

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Intention

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I can’t keep up with the months. & as they seem to always move faster & faster – I’m trying to be more intentional. An ongoing, yearly resolution.

& this year, the focus will go on being more careful with my words & actions. To work harder, but be easier on myself. To be kind. To be warmth. To read more & worry less. To drink. more. water.

& with that. I’m off to Mae Sariang for a week to reconnect with loved ones from the Karen Organization of Minnesota. Return & get back to my work with Partners for a week. & then, head to Burma for a week. 2014, lets do this.

Happy New Year

IMG_0917Happy, Happy New Year (Sawadee Pee Mai) to my loved ones near & far. Oh, what a year it has been. I hope 2014 brings gratefulness for what has been & positive energy for what’s to come. Cheers!

xo

& for a mini reflection on my 2013 in Thailand, check out the Partners Blog.
&& a friendly reminder: two more weeks to go on my IndieGoGo Campaign 

101B

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Trying lately to spend more time with myself, quietly. Keeping the company of books, pen & paper & a cup of tea.

& feeling so thankful I finally have the perfect apartment to do so in. Sunshine filled windows, wooden floors, friendly neighbors & a landlord who is the perfect balance of crazy/motherly.

WE DID IT

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Ta Blut Doh Ma, Kob Kun Kaa, Tee Bwi, Yin Lii Nam Nam, Thank You!

WE DID IT – we met my goal (in 10 days)! Thank you – for all the kind words, enthusiasm & generous donations. So much love & gratitude from Thailand. xo