Camp / Home / Christmas

by jeannabauer


I had a post planned. About Christmas music & homemade chicken noodle soup. The Karen & the familiarity of their dress, song & language. The nostalgia. The way, “Hgaw ler ah hgay, ya mee may Law Eh Paw. Na mee di leh?” came back with ease. I attended the annual Partners & Mission School (No. 1) joint Christmas party in Mae La  & I felt … at home.

& it sounds lovely, but I feel conflicted. I have many places that feel like home & my home-home. & anyway, what exactly does home mean in a refugee camp?

Certainly, I understand the root of my emotions – during my time working alongside Karen in St. Paul – they became family. The nostalgia I felt was real. The love I continue to feel for & from that community is real. The Karen are still the force behind my work in Thailand. But at the end of the day  – the gate was opened & I left Mae La.

Not everyone can do that. To local governments Mae La is no one’s home – it’s temporary shelter. To the elderly & middle aged Mae La is a refuge from the home that became dangerous. & for over 50% of the camp’s residents Mae La is the only place they know.

My first Christmas away from home & the ballads that sing of returning there. A visit to a refugee camp & news of refugee repatriation. Lately, I just – can’t stop thinking about home.