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patterns of ink

How fruitless to be ever thinking yet never embrace a thought... to have the power to believe and believe it's all for naught. I, too, have reckoned time and truth (content to wonder if not think) in metaphors and meaning and endless patterns of ink. Perhaps a few may find their way to the world where others live, sharing not just thoughts I've gathered but those I wish to give. Tom Kapanka

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Cyclone Path Leads to Our Hill Tribe Friends

We’ve all heard by now the tragic numbers coming out of Burma / Myanmar. I have been following this story with the same sense of helplessness that the rest of the world feels, but added to that mounting loss of human life and the frustration that the inept government in charge is too insecure and isolated to know how to accept a helping hand... I have a slightly more personal concern.

If you follow the path of that deadly cyclone, you’ll see that it reached the northeast border of Thailand.

There on this map, just under the "MAY 4" in the tip of Thailand, is where this 7-day cyclone finally dissipated. That is where we were in late January with the medical team when filming the building of this grass hut . That location is described in the opening of this interview taped just
Twelve Weeks Ago on the Myanmar Border.

It was this friend who took me to the airport when I needed to return home unexpectedly for my mother's final days. His was the last familiar face I saw until disembarking in Grand Rapids. In this interview three days before, he was explaining, in part, how the five million Akah Indians originally from China migrated south in the 19th Century to Burma, Thailand, Laos, and beyond.

In light of the tragic Cyclone news from that corner of the world, it seems strange to hear him speak of the short window of opportunity we had (before the rain season began in March) to safely travel in that mountain region. I have not heard a report, but because the hill tribes are far from sea level, I'm guessing that they may have endured only the loss of the simple thatch-roof shelters they call home.

If only the government of Myanmar was as open to outside humanitarian help as Thailand has been these past two decades.
Sad that it may have taken this deadly storm to bring about the needed changes in the land formerly known as Burma.

Here is a before and after photo of the region now submerged by water in Burma. The hill tribes our medical team works with are no where near the flooded area, but since the cyclone continued on into the northern mountains of Thailand, it is possible that the huts we saw suffered damage similar to that seen in some of the disturbing footage in the links below.
Update: Friday, May 9, 2008.
Another Friday update: Biting the hand that feeds you.
Disturbing video images in the villages hit by cyclone. More similar footage here.

May 14, 2008: Video Update from Burma one week later.

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Blogger the walking man said...

Once again Tom a government stops aid from entering in because they are so damned paranoid that some other government is going to smuggle troops and arms in to ferment revolution.

Maybe the regime should realize they damn themselves with every passing day of obstruction. There will always be typhoon and hurricane, but there doesn't always have to be inaction while the powers that be, look for ways to secure their own comfort,

I hope that a spirit of peace come to you concerning your friends in Thailand and it sounds as if by being on the high ground may have helped them.



8/5/08 3:26 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Until this storm, I was unaware of just how "shut off" from the world that military junta government was. It's been a miserable failure at many levels long before this time. Evidently, they were even warned by India that the typhoon was coming. As we saw first hand, "communication" to the more primitave parts of that region is very limited, but there seems to have been no effort at all to warn the people.
I think we're right about our friends high in the hills. I hope so.

8/5/08 5:31 AM  
Blogger Tom said...

Just maybe, this tragedy will be the turning point that will allow the door to be opened.
I pray that this might be the event that will be used to change the hard position of the "leaders" in Myanmar.

It is so hard to comprehend the latest number of deaths projected for the area-so many if not all without the knowledge of Christ.

I am praying that the doors will be opened and that the love of Christ will be evident in the aid that Christians deliver.

8/5/08 7:45 AM  
Blogger Cris said...

I've heard about the cyclone, but I didn't realize that it was so close to where you were. Hopefully they didn't receive much damage. And as big of a tragedy this is, like Tom said, hopefully this will open up a door and give Christians an opportunity to show Christ's love.

8/5/08 1:42 PM  
Blogger Dr.John said...

The government doesn't seem very concernred. They haven't even sent their own troops to clean up or help clean up.

8/5/08 6:13 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Good to see you at the concert tonight. You are right. It is sometimes through horrible human tragedy, and reminders of the brokenness of this world, that hope and a better way emerge.

Cris, the worst of the cyclone damage is a day's journey southwest of the hills where we were, but where the cyclone finally ended is right where we were and I cant imagine how those woven huts and thatch roofs hold up against such winds.

Dr. John,
The more I read about how much help is being kept from the people in need of food, pure water, etc. I can't help but think this will be the end for that junta, but in the meantime... carnage everywhere and the fear of chaos, looting, and disease yet to come.

8/5/08 8:44 PM  
Blogger Lone Grey Squirrel said...

I haven't heard of any significant damage in North west Thailand and I believe they would have been spared the worst of it and would have gotten away with just minor damage to their huts. As for the Myanmar government, they seem paralysed by the scale of the tragedy and not knowing what to do, they do what they do best......hunker down and be paranoid about everyone.

9/5/08 3:49 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Thanks for stopping by. You know the area well. I haven't heard anything from our friends, but no news in this case is probably good news. (The man in the video clip is a pastor in Bangkok far from the path of the cyclone.) Hope you're recovering well.

9/5/08 7:30 AM  
Blogger Nancy said...

Tom, I am so sorry to hear this news. I know you must be full of inner turmoil as you wait to hear from the pastor. I have been praying for all of those in the cyclone area but my prayers will have new meaning now that I know how close it is to the area where your mission trip was. I feel a connection just because of the faces in your video. My prayers continue.

Happy Mother's Day to your wife and I hope you will be comforted with all of the great memories of your mom as you face this day without her.

9/5/08 12:50 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Finally after nearly a week, video of the typhoon aftermath is now beginning to appear. And I must admit some of the ruined villages look so much like the ones we saw in the hills that it does bring back memories.
Thank you for thinking of the significance of this Mothers Day to us this year.

9/5/08 5:15 PM  
Blogger Donnetta Lee said...

Tom: I can't even begin to understand the ins and outs of politics. So little of it makes any sense to me. Just so sorrowed to hear of people in pain and distress and nothing/not much done to help. Sending prayers in that direction. I tend to forget how very lucky I am. Tom, you are such a good spirit. You are teaching us much.

9/5/08 9:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sadly, I have to admit I haven't paid alot of attention to the news re: this as I've been busy with LIFE and of course there's that "it's 'over there' mentality" that we (I) sometimes have when things like this occurs!
THEN...yesterday I was driving and had a Christian radio station on with a phone interview of a Christian Humanitarian Missions person. He has been in Burma...he stressed that we should still call this country that as the government is a corrupt junta who have changed everything. He said the country was once quite wealthy but is now the poorest of the poor. The people aren't allowed any way to have communications with the outside (radios, t.v. and such) and only the government elite have anything of value. Somehow this humanitarian group is going in with help. Of course there was the usual information but I was alone on the Interstate and didn't and wasn't able to copy any of it down. The numbers in Burma of the affected could number in the 10's of 1000's---far more than our news is telling us! So sad! I do hope that your friends in Thailand weren't badly affected.

10/5/08 8:00 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Donnetta Lee,
Thank you. You've maybe seen comments here from Lone Gray Squirrel (in fact you may have known him before I met him). He is from Malaysia. I have had a very busy week and haven't had time to read blogs yet this weekend, but I would imagine he might have some insightful thoughts on this.

We all tend to have that "it's over there" mind set or as I put it in that video clip about the hut..."half a world away." What you've said about Burma is correct. Just across the border in Thailand things are very different, very open. Many of the hill tribes migrated from Burma to Thailand. One of our translators told us that much of the Myanmar millitary is made up of Akah Indians--who have no other way to live. Many Akah orphans, who lose their father in conflict are sold into child prostitution in the urban areas. Our medical team visited an ophanage in Thailand dedicated to houseing such orphans to keep them from such abuse.
We had some of our students completing required "community service hours" at a place called "Intenational Aid" here in west Michigan. They are sending medical supplies, etc. I have a feeling many more images will be aired now that people are being allowed in.

10/5/08 8:39 AM  

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