Akha Chronicles
Book 1: Maesai
Chapter 14: The
Flat Village

 

The Flat Village

The Flat village is a village that was relocated from several different beautiful mountain locations by the army.  The owner of the land thought he would get rich off a bunch of impoverished Akha, which did not happen.  He got very little.

The Flat village is a village that I had significant involvement with from the beginning of their relocation and through out  many hard times which they experienced.

The Flat village illustrates what the cost is to the lives of people when governments, army, forestry and other selfish interests take action to shorten the lives of other peoples than themselves.

 

The Flat Village

Working for food security, medical problems, problems of relocation, places they got relocated from, fish project, weaving project.  How they ended up here, when I found them. Babies. Nutrition. The upper mission. 

I finally figured out who the headman was.  I don’t think that he was appointed when they first moved down off the mountain. He had a distinctive look, not a particularly good look but distinctive.  He had a number of children and both of his older daughters had a thyroid problem.  The younger one who was sixteen got pregnant and that made it worse according to my doctor friend.  The baby didn’t live but a few months.  I hardly knew it was gone except by the absence.  I asked the girl and she said it just got sick and died.  She took it to Maechan but it died anyway.  Almost like this sort of thing was expected it seemed.  That was the second child that died in the village that I knew of.

Every family had differences.  The headman’s family took eating real seriously, no one said to much and hands flew in a flurry of moving rice, herbs being dipped in chili sauce and eating mustard greens.  I think the Akha nation was built on mustard greens.

On this night I dropped off a few of my new alphabet books in the village and the headman’s three older kids got a quick introduction.  Then accross the road to another family.  This was a particularly odd night as Booh Saw’s family was expecting a police raid.  No one in her family had ID cards.  They had been raided twice and expected it again tonight.  The hut was dark and the dog barked a lot.  I could see why they kept it.  I had to watch that it didn’t nip me but other than that it was harmless to me but I think an intruder might have another problem.

I found Booh Saw sewing parts for a jacket in another hut, her older brother and younger sister and mother and mother and law dispersed with the small children to other huts.  All in the life of being Akha one would suppose.

Actually migration for these kinds of people was quite common and it wasn’t their problem that the world had gone to the nation state idea.  But for some reason there had never been too many shooting battles for the Akha so they did not get the generous handouts of refugee camps and such that were offered to other groups, much with US cooperation.  The only thing they got from the US was rabid missionaries who were always blowing up their backside and into a village trying to impose a churh, like so much cold wind.  I had been working this area for years and there was a load of work to be done in the villages to help out, help that wasn’t getting done by the missionaries.  Their aid was always tied to religion, something that the US opposed in its regular trade agreements.  But what could you expect of a country that thought Cuba a threat and was home to people like Jesse Helms.

The village had dirt streets, a few flourescent street lights, a community meeting place with covered roof and breezy open sides.  Sometimes I gave alphabet lessons on the large chalkboard.  Fortunately I didn’t have to get past the locked door of a church to use it. 

They had two wells in the village.  I had told them that shortly I would case the well in the middle of the village and put in a pump, for which they were glad but as I waited a few days for the money they kept asking me what month I would do it, two or three away, like that.

This particular well was about six meters down and it needed to go to at least ten so that there would be plent of water in the hot season as well.  After the concrete rings were in it would be filled around the outside with gravel and once the top was on and the hand pump mounted it would be skirted with a concret slab and a place for a water trough and washing.  Not a lot to it, they would help with the work, but it would still probably run about ten thousand baht if not more.  At present it was not used, had filled with debri and was fenced by slats of bamboo.

There was one family in the village that had a choice big piece of land and they were not Akha.  I don’t know how it worked.  They grew a lot of plants in a large enclosure.  But something was not all that well, because they ran a little store at first and no one would buy so now its bamboo shutters were closed.

I repeatedly told the villagers to quit working with paraquat, a chemical supplied by Zeneca corporation out of London but related to another company in the US.  The Akha had no idea of its lethality and only laughed at the concept that this stuff could kill you.  After all, it was magic, the Thais sold it and liked to use it too.  I was used to seeing the Akha spray it all around them in the weeds and then spill it all over their hands and then take it back to the village and wash out their tanks right next to the other well that was only six feet below the surface, the one they got their drinking water out of.

The village grew a lot of corn around them, baby corn.  Some of it they owned themselves under some sort of share cropper agreement and other they worked for the Thai neighbors.  The women came home with red hands.  That was caused by handling the red dyed insecticide treated corn seeds as they planted them.  They soaked them in water from the night before to get them to sprout faster.  Once again the agent had no relationship to any hazard they knew of and was only laughable to mention it to them when they were barely getting by at all.

I wondered if this sort of thing had any relationship to the infant deaths in the village?

Booti’s family was all married except her.  She was the youngest.  Her mother was in her seventies and this was the last of better than ten kids.  Her grandkids were all sort of loud and the boy especially obnoxious.  But a nice family over all, very appreciative of visits and her Booti’s mother was a real patriarch, great to sit and listen to.

This night the small woman from next door was in the hut.  Her daughter wanted to get an education but was in Bangkok at 15 getting a different kind of one instead.  And her daughter’s friend ended up at the mission.  Taking the kids out of the villages for different kinds of revamping.  No one seemed to be able to just leave them alone.

There had been a marriage lately.  I knew the groom by face but wasn’t sure who the bride was.

 

Flat village

I looked at the little girl.  Blood covered her all around the nose and mouth.   she cried on in  a weeping kind of way.  She had a bed sore on the back of her head and her lower pelvis, she was emaciated, she was maybe five and had been sick some time.  Flies crawled on her face.  I cleaned her face gently and put vicks on it to keep the flies away.  The blankets smelled bad.  No one appeared to care.  The dogs came and went.  I didn’t think she would make it.  She needed to be in a hospital or care until she got strong and better.

 

Flat village 2  (97)

The problems here are abcesses, eye infections, injury infections, lots of skin fungus.

There needs to be a good quick solution for fungus.

Then there are lots of bad teath.

Scalp infections.

Cut fingers.

Dry eyes.

Painful stomach like typhoid, milk of magnesia doesn’t do much.

 

But skin fungus is the largest problem.  Pharmacy solutions are very expensive, $6 per person.  What to do?

Booh Saw is 20 years old.

Pulled a widow’s teeth.

Husband went to do opium in Burma.

Three children, two died.  A baby boy left.

 

Sick at the Flat Village

While I had been in the flat village they found out I was sick and were very nice to me.

Then I went to Booti’s house and a man was laying on rice sacks on the floor next to the fire and Booti’s mother had a stick braced on his back in her left hand and with her right foot she would dip it into water and the stamp twice on a very hot metal hoe head she took out of the fire and then it would hiss like the devil and she would push her steaming heal into the guys lower back and hips.  She did this like a methodic dance. At seventy plus one tough old foot, one tough old lady.

Remember, three disks make their sound and then one drum, that is the cadence.

They have a cadence to their life.

 

Some of the problems In Village Stem From:

 

1. Increased consumption

2. Loss of land

3. Activity such as selling and using drugs

4. Decreasing nutrition

5. lack of medicine

6. prostitution, aids

7.  lack of sanittation

8.  Problems imposed by a new economy but lack of access to that new economy

 

Flat Village, Sick for three days.

Nov 97

The baby died. A girl of three months.

The men made the white death  clothes.

The man took the clothes off roughly like he was plucking a chicken or was very disturbed about the whole thing.  Then he redressed her in her burial whites of coarse clothe and wrapped her up and placed her on a wooden wrack on the ground to which they added all the things that were hers plus a full woman’s outfit of jacket and dress, ones that she would never wear.

I set back a little to watch it, but now it was just work to them I thought.  The mother and the younger sister of the father cried on the women’s side of the hut.  Much of the village gathered at the house.

They had told me that the girl was sick three days so I went to get medicine.  But when I got back the baby was already dead. In reality it had been twelve days and hadn’t eaten for five.  They meant it had been sick “like that” for three days.  They took her to the hospital at the last but she died there in their arms, the doctor not wanting to come and look at her first.

This infant death thing is a problem. Now that I knew better the symptoms of distress I would be on it more closely. 

A lot of the infants die in the first months.

Pneumonia was the worst killer it seemed.  That and the “runs”.

 

Flat Village

bladder stone boy

They thought he was peeing wrong for three years and always beat him with a switch till they saw the size of the bladder stone and then the grandmother wept

 

Flat Village

Booti

 

Woman at village with hole in leg

The doctor dug it all out and packed it, seemed to work but was a big hole you could have put your finger in. Packed it with gauze.

These were abcesses or boils, not sure if that was the same or not, but a certain kind of infection that went into the leg, arm, neck, sometimes face, and often arm pit.  Usually it got in a house and sort of stayed there, moving from person to person, particularly if they didn't make a point of cleaning up the place.  Often the Akha had no perception that the puss was really lethal.  They knew it, but behaved as if they didn't. Poverty.

 

Coal mine

flat village boohseh knows

he has fotos and a piece of the coal which I had tested.

 

Loh Pah Flees after Loh Guuh is killed

Loh Pah agreed to find pills for an old Thai man, never asked who he was or where he lived or why he wanted pills and of course it was a set up.  Loh Pah asked Loh Guuh to get involved and while Loh Guuh was doing lookout near the village a police officer walked up behind him and shot him in the back of the head.

Loh Pah then ran away to Loh Mah Cheh Akha where he hid for a number of months.

 

Ah Doh flat village opium, he gets busted for smoking, later he got on meth, a one way trip

 

Maw Lay

 

characteristics of the flat village

 

Bah Jeeh flat village

 

Boeuh Maw flat village

 

Ah Baw Booh Sehh

 

Booh saw

 

meeh nmm

 

Nyeeh pah, her son, two daughters, Ah Tsauh the small boy

 

Booh Uuh, and the lisaw man who is now dead, Maw Lay

 

ICU

 

Loh Pah, had welts on his back, got caught, went to prison

 

nightime intruder, police raids, booh Saw

 

Upper village, three suicides and a well

 

stories in the flat village

 

neighboring mission add ons, broad casts

 

long house

 

well repair and pump upper village

 

Booh Saw in flat village, the police come and arrest her mom, then let her go, she got very

 

fearful from that

 

two dead babies in the village

 

The Nyeeh Pah, Abaw Dteeh's wife, died, I bought him medicine

 

mission people visit many times going after the kids

 

emmanuel christian fellowship

 

amid poverty

 

booti's sotry of 40,000 baht owed over corn picking

 

booh saw's tooth flew out

 

party in the village and all the trash

 

building the well

 

Zenaca

 

manufacturers of gramoxone - paraquat

 

hernia boy

 

gall bladder stone boy, law joh

 

one girl went to bangkok, booh nmm

 

two girls caught at checkpoint, booh uuh and booh saw the younger

 

booh saw's brother could sing well. At first he did not like me

 

how I caught the thai boys

 

fooh man choo

 

other elders

 

paraquat

 

baby corn

 

thai visitors to huts at night

 

chickens around the hut, lice

 

booh saw's white dog

 

cost of lots

 

the boy runs and kicks the kid down from behind in a flying kick

 

The Crooked Hut

 

What a Day

Dear Friends:

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I apologize that this email became a little long but this is the fabric of what goes on here and on this one occasion I have taken the time to describe the events of mostly just one day.

Once again it has been a very busy week.  Some people can not remember what they ate for breakfast.

It is beginning to be that I can not remeber what I did and where I was the day before.

We are wrapping up the last few stories and cultural information for the

Children’s Book and I hope to begin typing all the new parts in by the end of next week.

Have been out to many villages in Thailand that I haven’t visited

before, sometimes taking the headman from one village to go see the next

village.

The rains have come so this usually involves getting pretty wet a time or two before we get back to the barn.

Some of the huts I visit have a diet of no more than rice and greens they gather. Never any meat and seldom an egg to split between many people.

Vegetarian or not, I find sometimes the best medicine for a sick child is to bring some meat to the hut.  It has an amazing affect.  And fruit.  We tend to take nutrition for granted.

The girl with the wound near to her eye is doing fine.  I made another trip back to check on her and will go again in a few days.  It is over two hundred miles round trip on a small motorbike on mountain roads.

Then in the villages it a host of things to do, never planned or on

schedule.  Babies with big infections, a child of six months loosing

weight with no explanation.  The child before died so the mother is

really worried.  Teeth to pull, rashes, cuts, slivers, eye and ear

infections, injuries that healed improperly, and the list goes on.  With

the heat, between rains, the infants take it the worst and the distances

to clinics are very far and often out of the question due to the roads.

Then impossible if the mother doesn’t have an identity card.  Or if you

send them, they tell you that the doctor gave them some non discript

pills and they have no idea what they are for.  Babies dying quickly is

quite common so it always makes me nervous when I have to walk away with

no help to offer.

The first aid assistance runs along side letting them know that books

are coming and many of the children and adults are eager to learn how to

write their own language.

Yesterday and the day before were really long days.

On June 1st in the evening one traditional Akha doctor who I often visit

told me that a man had just died near to the village, that they were

“Christian” and lived in a tiny hut by themselves.  I didn’t know that

anyone was even out there in that part of the fields.  The man before he

died called the village doctor but she told  me that she didn’t know what he was sick of but it was serious and many people thought aids and she was afraid to walk into what she didn’t know.

That may sound strange to westerners where we can always call 911, but

in a place where there is often no food, poor food at that, not the best

health all around and no good medical services people tend to be afraid just a little bit about what the are not expert at.

They gave me general directions to the hut but wouldn’t go because that was a “Christian” hut as well and they were from a traditional village and won’t have anything to do with “Christian” Akha.

As the night and day went on I was to find out why.

(Earlier that day two pastors from the “Christian” upper village had visited and I talked with them briefly.)

I got to the hut in the dark, the whole hut leaning sideways so that you

had to walk in leaning to one side.

A candle burned.  It was 10 pm and nothing was moving.  A thai man sat in on a chair against the wall of the hut to my right. The floor was of dirt. He spoke no Akha and I little Thai.

(Akha huts have a front “everybody’s” room and men sleep there. The back

room is for the women to sleep, more private.)

On the men’s side of the hut there was a mosquito net.

The man woke the children.  There was a little boy and a young girl

whose face had been scarred by a dog.  She pulled the net to one side

and sat up next to her brother.  She was stary eyed.  A foot away her

father lay dead wrapped in a blanket.  The mother was gone to bring

friends to help.

I stayed a while, there wasn’t much I could do and no where to move the body over.

I would have to come back in the  morning.

I would also give the widow time to muster what she could.

I didn’t get back till ten oclock in the morning, some twenty miles away

from Maesai.

I expected the hut to be surrounded by friends.  There was no one there.  I went inside.  The widow sat there, her husband’s father who had been injured in the head and was “slow”. Her oldest daughter, the young daughter and the boy.  I walked in.  Flies were already beginning to swarm.  No one said anything.  The “Christian” Akha weren’t coming either.

That morning which was yesterday, I had borrowed $40 to keep everyone at

my “school” fed and keep gas in the bike.  I have to make that long trip

to see the girl with the eye wound one more time so I felt sort of happy

to have a couple of dollars. I had stopped to buy more medicine on the way out so it was already beginning to dribble away.

The flies buzzed.

I asked them if they had a coffin coming? Stupid question.

These girls were going to have to become prostitutes just for the family

to eat now.

I told them to wait.  I got back on the motorbike and sped off in search

of a coffin maker.  Though I had seen many dead infants this was my first search for a coffin for an adult.  I went to the next large town.

They wanted $45.  I went back to the traditional village and asked a boy

there.  He knew where there was another place so we went back out to the

highway to that place.  $40.  But I had already gassed the bike, ate one

time and would need more gas before the day was over. I offered $30.  She agreed, loaded the coffin in an old truck and they drove it out to the village.  The Thais can be real kind this way.  No charge.

We wrapped the blanket tight and placed the husband in the coffin.  I gave the children one last look at their father and they began crying softly.  He had a strong face but looked to have been very ill, but not AIDS.  Maybe I would find out.  There were nails but no hammer so I pounded the lid tight down with the back of a heavy knife against the nail heads.

Nothing is simple.  Now I had four dollars.  They all looked at me.  Oh,

yeah, just where did I suggest burying him?  They had no place.  I was beginning to discover the nature of what the missionaries had done here.   There was great animosity between the religious and traditional Akha, the traditional Akha fearing that their traditions would be taken away, the “Christian” akha feeling they were enlightened and intelligent, much superior. But then their own, like this woman, got no help either.

Since the traditional village was afraid to help, I thought I would go

and try to find the two roving preachers.  As luck would have it they

were just leaving the huge mission compound and had closed the gate.  So

I caught up with them and told them that there was this dead “Jesus”

Akha and he had no place to die properly.  They said there was a

cemetary at the top of the mountain next to the village and that I could

bury him there, no problem they assured me. I thanked them and found the

trail and fought my motorbike up it steeply through the rocks and trees amazed that I could go at all.  High on the top there was a cleared meadow in the jungle, tall grass growing, and wonders, yes the man that commited suicide just last week.  Buried gently there.  A wooden cross with his name and age marked the only mound.

So I went back to the family and told them that I had found ground but that it was way too hot to dig and we would have to wait till 4 in the afternoon.

Then I set off to another village to check on some babies.  On the way I

met half a dozen Akha women marching down the road with baskets.  I

asked them where they were going and they said that they were off to the

Thai corn fields to harvest dry corn that the Thais didn’t want and gave

them.  For five gallons of clean corn kernals they get $2. So I was off

with them to help them pick corn.  After a couple hours we had our

baskets full, a blistering sun and back to the village.  I had a

motorbike and took one of them, the rest had to pack full baskets of

corn three kilometers back to the village where where they would have to

break loose the kernels.

By then my head was pounding, I didn’t have a hat, and I had more first

aid work to do in that village.  Before I knew it 5:00 had come so I set

off for the mission.  At the mission they had three trucks.  I asked the

top person there if they would come one kilometer and move the coffin to

the base of the mountain trail with one of their trucks.  Then there was

this big discussion, much ringing of hands and for some reason they just

couldn’t do it.  I was no less than furious.  I asked them why they had stripped this Akha of his culture and then didn’t have the decency to help bury one of their own?  Oh, he was from over there, maybe even Catholic, not Baptist.

So back down to the highway, and to the truck stand.  By this time it

was pushing 6pm.  There the man at the truck stand wanted $20 dollars to

move the coffin because he really didn’t want to put a dead man in his truck.  The Thais have special trucks for funerals so I knew I was pushing my luck.

Then the price went down to $10.  I had $4.  So off I went to the place where I had bought the coffin that morning.

Their truck was gone, but there was milling around in the way when Thais

are shaking and baking and something is happening so I had a seat and waited.  No hand wringing here.

The boys were busy cooking chicken over coals and talking about their

fighting chickens.  One had his chicken under his arm while he waited to

eat a less fortunate distant kin roasting on the coals. About 30 minutes

later with people and trucks coming and going a fancy red truck showed

up.  In Thailand if there is lots of coming and going something is

getting sorted out.  I like that.  Many westerners interpret it as

timewasting and milling about and not knowing how to get anything

organized straight away.  Looks are very deceptive.  So one man snatched

my motorbike, another offered me a front seat in the red truck and we

were off again.  Back into the woodland villages of the Thais nearby

there.  Fish ponds a beautiful place, lots of ckicken raising, lots of

piles of farm wood here and there and then more rickety buildings and

soon we were at some makeshift camp between trees and ponds at a rickety

table, some net overhead, a small garage and several men I had never

seen before. It was dark.  They were in the middle or end of dinner,

seemed to have no connection to any of this, and offered me a chair with

much ado and washed dishes in a bucket, set out a clean glass and poured

whiskey, put soup and meat in front of me and sat back and talked about

America, my broken Thai and their broken english.  And it all went on

and on, once again in the way we do things here in Thailand that makes

westerners impatient and the real story doesn’t even get talked about,

but I could smell that progress was afoot so I had a good eat.  Then the

man at the end, a big man, whose face I could not see in the dark, picked up his mobile phone and began making phone calls, the man on the left drank whiskey and talked about his new wife, the man on the right laughed and poured me more whiskey with more handfuls of ice.

The pickled garlic was crunchy and good.

Then the man at the end pulled out money, handed it to the man at the left and told him to round up three trucks, four or five guys, shovels, picks, lights and hurry up.  I never did see his face.

Soon not one but three trucks and motorbikes where streaming down the lanes between the rice fields back out to the mountain base village and out through the fields to one lone hut with a candle.

We loaded up the coffin, and then at the request of the Thais, in Thai fashion drove very slowly down the lane with all our lights going to this mans last resting place.  The Thais are so cool and gracious.

We reached the base of the mountain and the group had swollen to twenty people.  We laid hold of the coffin and carried it up the steep rocky trail  the kilometer to the top where the meadow was.  We had to stop often.

Once to the meadow, all the whiskey and ice got set up once again and

then with much laughter and merriment we took turns digging down through

the rich brown soil this great hole that you need to bury a friend.

His wife and daughters were there, the young boy stayed home with the older man.

We dug for hours.  There were huge rocks.  Then we lowered the white wooden coffing down in and everyone helped throw in handfulls of earth.

The young daughter had a hand hewn wooden cross that she placed at her father’s head and then we lit lots of candles all around the resulting mound.  One Catholic man took the widow and daughter by the hand and we all said a prayer, and headed down the mountain to the trucks.

When we got there we were met by angry Akha men from the mission some of

whom I had spoken to earlier, who could lend a hand.  Why had we buried him there?  Why late at night? Didn’t we know everyone was trying to sleep?  Their faces became ugly and pushy, the widow, a small woman in her thirties and the younger daughter were distraught and stood back.

The Thais finally told the villagers from the mission, hey, we were up there burying this poor woman’s husband, there was no more time, it had to be done and hey, lets just all have a good time and go home and sleep.

It was 1am.  The mission Akha refused.  They wanted to be ugly.  The Akha man who said the prayers tried to calm them and set it all aside.

Not to be done.  So finally in a style that all could understand the

Thais all pulled out their guns and asked the mission Akha if they would

be so kind to be happy, smile and that they hoped it was no great

inconvenience if we had buried this pennyless widow’s husband and this

girls father, did they mind?  The mission Akha all got really big smiles

and said everything was just fine and we all loaded up and left.

It was then that I was beginning to understand what the traditions of missions here was.

One day can be like that.

It rained hard when I drove back the twenty miles to maesai.

I was a little wet, a little tired but the widow was in peace for the moment.  I had no idea how they would get food now.

The husband worked spraying herbicide, Zenaca’s paraquat to be exact.

He had great pain in his lung before he died.

Never a dull moment.

It was 2am.

 

Matthew McDaniel

 

Email Journal

28 June,

Death of Meeh Sah

Sun, 28 Jun 1998 00:04:56 +0700

I tied you to my back and carried you from the village

I took you to two hospitals on my motorbike

I gave you my own blood and that of six other people

And still there was not enough time

So tonight I had to say goodbye to you dear friend

I laid you softly in the forgiving cool earth

Deep in the heart of the mountain jungle

Between young trees and vines as you were young

And none of it was good enough

To justify needing to say goodbye

Goodbye my friend Meeh Sah

I knew you only for a year

And it will never be long enough

 

It is with undescribable sorrow that I must tell you that this morning at 5:30 am the Akha girl Meeh Sah died at the hospital ICU in Chiangrai.  Malaria had completely destroyed her blood.  She was just 20.

Her child died with her.

I knew her a year.

I lost a friend who I didn’t get to teach how to read in her own langauge, I think that is how this all started, working on language.  Her husband lost a wife.

I had to bury her tonight in a very wet jungle.  It is almost midnight now.

She delivered a still born child just before dying and I had to dig two graves inbetween trees up on the mountain.  How small us humans are.

In the great forest it was like standing down at the feet of great elders and laying a friend at their feet, them looking down from the mist and the darkness as we say our goodbyes.

This was first about language, endangered language, but life is not kind to these people.

Matthew McDaniel

 

More on death of Meeh Sah

This last part of this journal this week gives the information leading up to Meeh Sah’s death which I did not put in the special note.

Starting on Thursday or Friday I don’t recall which:

......I just got my weekly newsletter sent off and finished talking to Jim Goodman who has a new book coming out about the Akha in the five countries here.  Then I went down to the Maesai hospital to check on the husband and wife who have malaria.

When I got there the husband looked better in the male ward.  My other friends daughter was there with her baby in the infant section as well.  Fever and lung congestion problem.

Then I went over to the women’s ward to check on the young Akha man’s wife. I have seen enough Akhas die to know she was standing in the door.

She lay in a bed on oxygen and a transfusion drip, boiling with fever in a room just as hot.  I asked the nursing station what was going on, how long she had been there like that and they could only tell me between giggling that her condition was getting steadily worse and that they thought she had cerebral malaria.  (pf) Though the wards were only paces away through a nurse’s alley no one from the one side had talked to the nurses from the other side about the spouse’s condition.

The general attitude was that all the charts were in order, she was sick, she was getting sicker, and it was lunch time.

I ordered an ambulance, got her papers together and following on my motorbike sent her south sixty miles to the private hospital in Chiangrai.  She was immediately checked into the cool air conditioned ICU.  She was in critical condition, the doctor tended to her immediately, ordered up blood and ran a quick series of lab tests.  Her malaria count was so high and her blood was almost completely taken over, about twenty percent of normal.  The people in Maesai hadn’t a clue at how close she was to dead.  Her chest heaved with every few breaths from the oxygen mask, two IV bottles now fed her, and a unit of blood was started along with something else that I didn’t get time to look at.  The doctor had another problem, not enough blood.  The only way he could save her he said was to replace enough of her blood to raise her healthy blood count from 5 to 15 in doctor’s terms.  As fate would have it my blood and her’s were identical so I went down to the lab, they ran tests and then I donated a unit of blood for her.  First time in my life.  After a few hours the doctor said that it looked like he could save her but she really hadn’t gotten past the critical time yet and that she could still suffer liver failure and brain damage if it continued much further.

Her little worn down mother sat out in the hall in her tribal dress, no more than rags really, and I went and got her a dinner and showed her where she could put her bed roll as is the custom here.

Her daughter, Meeh Sah was one of only nine people in the ICU and had much better care.  It was all I could do.  But now her husband had no one to watch him and feed him so I went back to the village, picked up the father of the husband and hauled him back north where I dropped him off at his son’s side in Maesai.  It was 11:30 pm.

I would have to be in two hospitals before noon and didn’t know when I was going to get more of the Child’s book typed into the computer.

On Saturday, as you know, I had to say goodbye to Meeh Sah.

I made a second trip up into the jungle to Meeh Sah’s grave on Sunday morning and cleared more brush and small trees and cleaned up more dirt and put more stones around and a post marker.

I will be making more trips to move some of the donated roses from near my cabin to her grave.

Monday morning:

Things have quieted down.

I returned Meeh Sah’s husband to the village this morning from Maesai

hospital.

 

13 Sept 98, Meeh Meeh Sterilization

001 Akha Journal Weekly Update 12 Aug.

Dear Friends:

You may subscribe a friend or unsubscribe by sending an email.

Well, this was a fast week since the last one, I have to ask people what day it is or find a newpaper.

I stopped by one village yesterday.

A woman I know was due to have a baby soon.

The neighbor came to the hut I was at and asked if I could come and look at the mother to be.  I asked where the husband was and she said he had gone to the other mountain to build on a hut for a friend.

So finishing eating I went to see my friend.  Her mother is a well known Nyeeh Pah. (spirit woman)

She was ten months along and said she had a little pain.

I asked her why she didn’t go ahead and have the baby?  Well, the Thais wouldn’t give an identity card unless the baby is born in the hospital!  How’s that for human rights folks!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Sorry about home births there in the US people, oops, your not Americans or Australians or whatever cause you WERE BORN AT HOME!!!!!!!  Gee these people have yet to enter the real world!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So we got on the motorcycle and I’m sorry but it really is hard to do anything but bounce going down dirt roads on a tiny motorcylce with a ten month pregnant woman.

After getting to the hospital, the staff, for lack of a better word, made this woman stand in line, walk around and give a urine test and shower and change and all of that, when she was in fact already in labor, oh yeah and examination as well, so finally with great discipline on the part of the mother like a dog being shoved from room to room just waiting to give birth, she made it too a bed where they seemed to think it important to further start an IV.  Can you believe this?  Excuse me, I just get fed up with stupid professionalism that has to take care of procedure before it has time to take care of people.

So then the mother tells them she really thinks that she should go in the other room and have the baby now, meanwhile a Thai girl in the next bed is moaning and holding her stomach in what appears to be a long labor.

So the Akha woman hops down now dragging the IV and waddles to the delivery room with these high tiny gurneys really, no convenient table like what a reasonable person might expect.  The nurses shut the swinging doors and one went inside and one went the other way and then I heard the Akha woman squeal and the nurses said “Hey, you can’t go in there”, but I did and I grabbed the distraught mother and the kid was already completely born and lucky he hadn’t shot off onto the floor because no one was really there.  I held the mother, while the nurses cut the cord.  The boy was born so fast that the mother was really afraid, but after all she had been made to hold this back just a little while.  And then the nurses told me I had to leave and I kept telling them just to do their job, so they whipped out the placenta like pulling down a curtain and didn’t even bother to look at it, hey we do better work in a barn, but hey, they’re Akha, you know, those dirty hill people.

So mother and son are fine and I learned just one more hurdle these people have to go through.  The father got home a few hours later and went down to the hospital to see his wife and new son.

In Salem Oregon we have a fundraising project for a four wheel drive ambulance so we can do something about this, if there is anyone who can help draw attention to this need and help us get it done it would be a kind thing.

On the literacy end, the two young students are now mostly running the night classes for Akha language on their own, one young man helps as well who has taught himself to read and I help the girls to learn how to manage the class so they don’t waste their time by the children or outsiders distracting from the task at hand.  Usually a couple of the old Akha women sit in to help with this as well, because lots of freeloaders come by from other villages, not willing to learn but willing to disturb.

So, till next week.

Matthew

 

19 Sept 98, Sterilization again, again (which one is better?)

Forced Sterilization of Akha women Date:

Sat, 19 Sep 1998 13:10:54 +0700 From:

The Sterilization.

(Possibly related to “Social Linguistics”)

 

Akha people have shaman women in their culture.  A very famous one near here is Meeh Cheh.  I know because I am recording the culture into books into their own language and I have to get the information from people like her.  As well, the american and australian and chinese baptist missionaries are butchering the culture, forbidding it in many villages and these women are an endangered specie.

So I track Nyeeh Pahs, as the spirit women are called.  They are the traditional healers.

In one village I know this woman who has three children and was pregnant with a fourth and wanted a girl.  Two girls and one boy.  She told me if she had a boy then she would try once more for a girl.  Since infant mortality is a handsome 20 to 30% in the Akha villages this is not odd.

Her mother is the famous Nyeeh Pah Meeh Cheh.

Her husband was sort of an indifferent guy so I kept tabs on her to make sure she was doing ok.  I don’t have enough money to supply vitamins like folic acid but would like to.  Anyway, one day last week when I visited the village, I was resting in one hut from the heat and an old woman came to see me and told me that Meeh Deeh, the pregnant woman, was having stomach pain.  She was very pregnant so I was not surprised but the way they said it made it sound like it was abnormal. Like the woman was frightened.  ( I speak Akha).  The Akha have babies normally so having one is in itself no crisis.

So I went to see her and I asked her if the baby was coming, she was not sure but said it was 12 days into the tenth month.  I asked her why she didn’t have it and she said that the Thai hospital told her when she had her checkup that if she didn’t come there to Mae Chan to have it that they wouldn’t give the child an ID Card.  And her husband went to the mountain to help a friend build his house that day.  Would I take her, of course so I eased her down the roads on my tiny 100 cc Honda Dream motorbike and from all her shifting and holding onto the back of me it was obvious that she was very much in pain.

I told her to be careful, that the hospitals try to sterilize a lot of Akha women.  She told me that she didn’t want to be sterilized, because the Akha women know that later there can be real problems with normal hard work that they do in the fields if they have a sterilization and prefer other forms of birth control.  Yes, there are some that don’t want any more babies despite Thai propaganda to the contray it would seem.

So I got this real clear with her and thought no problem.

Arriving at the hospital they treated her roughly, made her stand here, go there, be weighed, get an exam, give a urine sample and all of this and finally, already dripping water she crawled into a bed where they figured they needed to further bother her with an IV.  Then she told them I think I need to have the baby and walked into the “delivery room” which had high cart beds and no real convenient delivery table like for short people.  One nurse went in with her, another came out and I heard the swinging door swing and then one nurse yell in a startled fashion and then the door swung and I saw that the baby had shot out onto the gurney. My Akha woman friend was scared and beside herself, I went in and held onto her, the baby could have shot out and onto the floor.  The nurses told me to leave, I told them to take a hike and do their lousy job.  I soothed my friend who was quite scared. It was a boy.  I heard them asking her in a rough way how many kids she had.  I knew what they were thinking.

I went out and the nurses charged me fifty baht for something. I don’t know what.

Then I came back and when she was in bed comfortably with her new baby boy.  I told her to be very careful that she didn’t let them sterilize her.  I left back to the villages so I could tell her husband when he came in.

Three days later she came back to the village and when I visited I stopped by the house to check on her.  I tried to give them some space at the hospital because I knew she was already a little pissed at her husband for his indifference.

When I checked on her she showed me weepingly that they had sterilized her.

I was agast.  I asked her how it was done and she said that the nurses told her that the foreigner had insisted that she be sterilized.

I went to the hospital yesterday to find the name of the hospital administrator and make an appointment for Monday to see him.  You don’t get much done at 4pm on a Friday.

The problem is that this I think is a common practice against the hill tribes, certainly the Akha, I have documented it before but not with someone that I brought in.

When I bring an Akha to the hospital I guarantee them that they will be dealt with fairly, will get the proper timely care and so forth.  Other wise they do not.

When my people die because of idots or when they get sterilized I get pissed, I say nothing but I don’t stop working on it and I don’t quit.

I think the story here is that the Thais do this all the time, that they are disregarding on many occasions to their medical treatment of the Akha and that sterilization is an attitude or maybe even unspoken policy, certainly it is safe to say the latter, all you have to do is listen to the way the nurses speak to these people.

I have documented where the doctor sent babies home to die.  They had a medical condition which they would die from if it went untreated in the next hours.  They told the parents to go home and take some medicine of this and that and not to worry.  At the last minute the child was brought to me, with the doctor’s receipt for the recent visit and only emergency action on the part of myself and surgeons saved the child’s life.  Not the same hospital naturally.

 

Matthew McDaniel

The Akha Heritage Foundation

 

19 Sept 98, Death of Booh Teeh’s Grandmother

Dear Friends:

You may subscribe a friend or unsubscribe by sending an email.

Where does the time go?

The rain is letting up a bit which is nice.

Two feet of water out on the road in front of my place, the border river

overflowing its banks the worst in the seven years I have been here.

A very dear old Akha Woman died this last week.  I have known her for some time.  She was in her late 80’s.  There were five generations in her hut and the surrounding huts.

She just decided it was time to go and shut herself up.

The night she died I went in about ten pm to see her and talk to her.

Didn’t have much I could do for her, she wasn’t sick, just wanted to

go.  I played harmonica for her for about thirty minutes, not much else

I know how to do, and then I went home.  They told me two days later

when I came back and the funeral was in full swing that after I left she

turned her head to one side and went to sleep and when they came to see her in a few minutes she wasn’t there anymore.

Maybe we have a little sand man in all of us.

We took her up on the hill and buried her, sad to see such a matriarch go.

 

Matthew

 

Flat Village

I worked a lot with the flat village as I called it.

I put in a well, that was a lot of work but they really appreciated that.

As time went by they planted trees, plants, fenced gardens, some of them.  These were never big and of course the chickens killed as much as they could.

If you make long rows and cover a frame with blue plastic screen the butterflies will never lay the eggs for the worms and you can make some real good vegetables but it takes money.  In the mountain it is cold and so that is not so much a problem, not so many butterflies like this.

 

Booti's Sister's Husband

Booti's older sister's husband came off the mountain with five kilo's of opium.  He got caught, they took the motorbike and the opium of course, Booti's other brother ran away.  Last time he wanted into that he said, but later he got caught up with it again, some deal and died.

 

11 Feb 99, Shooting

Dear Friends:

It has been a busy week.

Two nights ago shortly after I left the home of a regional Akha Head Man

(an official of a higher rank than a village head man) two gunmen came up the back steps of his house and shot him.

Fortunately I had stopped by for a meeting around 8:30 pm on the 9th.  After some tea and getting the matter resolved I left and returned to the cultural center just a few hundred yards down the hill from his house, where we are slowly developing the cultural center project.

I was out doors from a wedding at one hut and had a direct line of sight

up the hill to his house probably a kilometer away in all.  Shortly

after I left he had dinner with his family on the back porch and then

after finishing dinner, he was having a smoke and a large white barn owl

flew in and landed on his porch right next to him and he caught it and put it in a basket.

He is about 50 years old.  A very pleasant gentleman.

His wife sat inside the door just a few steps away watching tv, the cook

in the kitchen, his son next door at the groundskeeper’s house.

One man came up the one steps in the dark across from him, another at

the steps to his right, he jumped up out of his chair and turned in the

door to his right trying to get a gun and the first man shot him with a

high powered handgun from very close just as my friend was able to get

in the door.  He was stooped over in a run, the bullet entered below his

right shoulderbone and tore a large hole as it came out just above his lung and below his collar bone before it tore the hinge off a door, hit a concrete wall and went through a window and hit the stone wall out front and turned again and kept on going.

I heard the shots down below and I and another fellow jumped back in the

truck and raced back up the hill.  By the time we got there we had him

on the phone and they told us he had been shot.  The gunmen raced down

the road to the other intersection.  When we got to the house they lead

my friend out, blood soaking his clothes and got him loaded inside the

truck.  His wife came and we raced down the mountain to the nearest

hospital which we made in about fifteen minutes.  He was bleeding quite

badly and we were able to get medication into him to keep him from going

into shock before they loaded him in another ambulance and got him south

to Chiangrai at an ICU there.  As of this morning he is still alive but risks complications from blood clots and other trauma to the area.

We were fortunate to have the ambulance and be near by when it happened or he would not have been so lucky.

We still don’t know who the gunmen were though perhaps he does, he was under police guard at the hospital when I left.

A note regarding the phone, as it turns out you don’t dial the 0 before the 1 when calling from out of the country.

Only for in country.

The Cultural Akha Long House should be done in about a week or so, there is still some concrete work to do for the showers and bathrooms.  We got the septic dug two days ago.

We have made a lot of progress in a lot of areas and are now focusing on the book production work so contact us if you are particularly interested in this part of the project.

Matthew McDaniel

 

19 Feb 99, Sniper

Dear Friends:

It is definitely getting hot here.

Out of fuel and out of coins so I got the day off.

Sometimes the boss does that.

Getting really warmer, hot in some of the villages already and many of the babies are getting sick as the weather changes.  Each time there is a big seasonal shift in the weather lots of people get sick here.

Some Japanese students are coming in this weekend to view the conditions

in the villages and see what can be done to help.

As it turns out, the leader who was shot was apparently shot by a sniper

with a very high powered rifle from a considerable distance under difficult conditions.  Still no clue as to who and why.

He is healing slowly but very concerned about his safety at this point, afraid there will be a second attempt on his life.

We have a number of letters going out to funding organizations at this time but the Akha Literature project is held up at this time to lack of funds.

Medical work has progressed though meds are always short of supply.

The literature project is the only part of the work that is delayed here

at this time.

Got one toner, need three more.

Working on getting into a building where we can move in the printing press.  But have been working on that a long time.

There should be some Akha festivals coming up in not too long, will keep

you informed of those.

A recent video regarding the mass sterilizations of Akha women by the

American Missionary Paul Lewis, the “expert” on Akha Anthropology, a

Doctorate in that field, well the video is out.  It is short.  I did not

go to Los Angeles for the interview with him but I was shocked at what he said, proclaiming how great a program it had been and how helpful he had been to the Thai government to sterilize all these Akha because there were too many hill tribe people, I mean he actually says this in the video and laughs.

Post surgery pain for years? Oh, psychosomatic, according to Paul Lewis.

I am having the script written down for next week’s newsletter and will be making copies of the video.

Matthew McDaniel

 

Unpaid Wages

The flat village and the upper village next to it, picked 100,000 kilo of corn and were owed together 200,000 baht but the Thai headman nearby built himself a house and then said that he didn't have any  more money and did not pay them.  Unpaid wage situations are common.

Another did not pay 30,000 baht for husking baby corn.

 

Opium Addicts can't come down

So the deal was that the opoium adicts couldn't come down with the move to the flat village.  But little by little some of them gave up the habit and filtered down to be with their families. 

Quitting opium was quite a pain they said.  Headaches and they couldn't shit.

But then later these same men had lots of trouble with smoking meth, and the meth really messed them up.

 

Brokers

Two Thai guys came to the hut of Nyeeh Pah Meeh Chooh at the flat village and offered 3,000 baht cash to take the younger daughter to Bangkok to work a "fun" job for a Chinese man they said.

Meeh Chooh did not let her go nor take their money.

This is far more insidius than parents selling their daughters, this is a case of slavers buying people and the parents having to decipher what is going on while maybe being really poor and under a lot of economic pressure.

You would have to see the poverty to understand how they could fall into this.  These brokers have impunity to walk around and try to buy girls.

The mother wouldn't give the girl, she knew what was up and knew the risk to her daughter.

 

A typical Village Visit:

So the trip to the flat village produced these stories:

One man is trying to die, Buuh Yuuh's father, from what looks like paraquat exposure, fever, vomiting.

Anyone can train as a Peeh Mah or Nyeeh Pah

Booti is trying to get her motorbike back that they guys dumped along the road.

Brokers come to the village offering 3000 baht for any girl for fun job in bangkok.

Drunk Thais come visiting, calling out "F.... you" in english.

A boy in the upper village was hit by a truck and the driver was drunk and caught, and suppose to pay the Akha parents, but who knows.  Meanwhile they came to the flat village to collect a little money for the funeral.

200,000 baht is owed for picking corn for the Thai farmers.

Unpaid.

Getting information on words and culture.

Booh Saw's older brother, father of Meeh Nay is going through opium withdrawal.

 

Suicide

I took crayons out to the flat village.  The Hawaiian women sent them.  I gave them to the kids of the Nyeeh Pah's family, Meeh Chooh.

I was told that a man committed suicide in the upper village so I went to look. He had a wife and five kids.  Two youngest were 23 months old twin boys.  HIs wife and he fought and he had no money.  So he drank Zeneca paraquat at midnight last night and died.

All the men were around so I asked why there was no traditional funeral ?

Oh yes, the Chinese Baptists in the village told them that they could not and many of the old men were angry about this.  Big mission, two sattelite dishes, lots of money, telling people poorer than them how to live their lives.  They buried the body the same day.

I couldn't help but feel that the village was occupied.

 

Flat Village

I travelled to the flat village many times.  It wasn't far off the main highway but it wa about 20 to 25 kilometers from Maesai.

The Akha people were always friendly to me here, Booti's family especially, and I enjoyed them all, their foibles included.

The village didn't have much.  Later I was to put in a swing for the kids with a slide and the children used that many years and I built a well and replaced the pump for them when it went out.

The Akha sometimes warned me about another families foibles.  Or this or that person, but I tried to accept them all, it all forming a picture of personalities that balanced out the other for good or bad.

There were many problems with sickness, skin ailments and such.  The heat was another effect, poor ventilations among the huts and the tops not open enough.  Ok, for the mountains but down here where there was no wind it left a lot of smoke to collect inside.

Boooh Saw was fun to talk to.  Her husband was Ah Zeeh, an opium adict who stayed on the hill.  Later he came down and tried to sell meth pills but went permanently to prison.

Booh Saw's mother was a Nyeeh Pah, Meeh Chooh, and she could sing very well, a beautiful ressonating voice. 

Ah Zeeh's mother, the fat one, could sing very well also, but Meeh Chooh was better.

They all called me Ah Dah because I did a lot for them, not nearly as much as I would have liked to.  I enjoyed the wrarmth although my stays were never that long, sometimes over night, but the huts were often too h ot for me.  The chickens crowed early and I didn't always sleep so well when I had so much going on.

A big festivity was coming up and so changes were occuring in the village.  Afect from Chiangrai was involved. Attu was OK but there was a lot of posh egotism and fanfare that wasted money and didn't help anyone.

Sometimes he brought tourists to the village and I thought maybe there was the danger that he would make it a tourist spot, giving nothing back, but this did not happen.

Life changes, places change, people change and move and often we are nothing more than spectators.

Many in the village needed tooth cleanings and fillings and all of that.  I took a few out to the dentist's office for this purpose when I could afford to do it.  I also pulled a few teeth.

If I had a truck and such I think I could get a dentist to come in, would need to make like a dental trailer, clinic on wheels I that I could tow in.

Many of the children went to the Thai school nearby where the school people automatically chopped the girl's hair like for everyone.

In the north the Thais extended services to a lot of Akha and I felt that they now had some love in their hearts for the Akha people.  Maybe small, albeit, but there.

None of the people who came down from the mountains used drugs though I could tell some wanted to go up and smoke opium now and then.  Later meth got in the village and destroyed the brains of at least two men and left a few in prison and a few dead.  The Wa were to be thanked for this.

The opium smokers stayed up on the hill.

I knew that the police were cracking down on the hill also so I wondered how long it woudl be until th ey switched to heroin and methamphetamine.  The drugs of concealment.  No lengthy preparation where you could easily get walked in on and the smell, the sweet unique smell of opium was in the air.

Opium was their cheap convenient pharmaceutical.  The problem was that just a little more than enough became too  much.  And then they got lazy.  It also used up more cash than it cost to eat for the entire family.

 

Flat Village

A different kind of writing.

The flat village I called it.

I remember I visited it one time at Hua Mae Kom.  A beautiful village I t h ought.  I wished I would have gotten to visit it more before they moved.  They had such a spectacular view of things.  It was all part of the army relocation of as many Akha as possible, very dishonest.

The second time that I fought the road to get out there on a rental Honda Dream motorbike I got there very late at night, nearly midnight, and I was afraid to wake the dogs, all the dogs and people not knowing me well yet, and all that, so I slept next to the motorbike huddled on the ground on the trail.  Gee, I must have really wanted to help these people in that time.  When I think of how hard I tried to get to their villages, to find out who they were, learn their language.  It was an ordeal.

In the morning when I woke up the village, to my surprise, was gone.

I asked arouind and found them at Huai Krai on Sah Jeh's land.

I remember looking at the village, broken down and abandoned huts, the Lisaw or Lahu picking through their belongings, thatch scattered, poles, boards, bamboo, they didn't take much. At that time I didn't know what it all meant, it meant a lot.  And I didn't know that at the same time they were moving Huuh Yoh Lisaw, way up on the other ridge.  It was horrible what they were doing to these people and of course it would effect tourism too but they didn't care about that or the morality of it. Karma, it would come back on the Thais.

I got to Huai Krai and they told me they were down at this one field and I rode my motorbike there and what a pathetic view, the plowed fields, and a road through, and then all the Akha huddled in the fields, their small supplies of rice and possesions clumped here and there.  I got there late afternoon and that is when I met Booti and she made a lean-to for me to sleep under plastic and I slept there and got to meet all the people that way and felt a lot of compassion for them and helping them.

The place was hot and humid and not much wind and the Thais did their best to exploit them sometimes, but with time they built a new existence and a new life.  Many of the men ended up in trouble with the police or in prison now.  No one told that story of relocation.  Then many of them moved back to the mountain also.  To this and that village.

 

Loh Guuh Dies

Log Guuh was Booti's older brother. Always funny.  The police got somene in the village to get pills and then Log Guuh was there and they snuck up on the back of him and the man said "now  I kill you" and shot him in the back of the head.

He died right away, he had two wives and four kids.

 

Helping the Akhas and Akha Jackets

I really didn't have  much to say about the Akha even after seven years.  It takes time to know what is going on with them. I got slivers of information here and there.

Obviously they were mostly very poor, not many villges had good services.  The villages closer to town had better access to medicine but also had high rates of prostitution and drug involvement.   The closer the villages were also more exploited for tourism and labor.  They were able to sell their wares and handiworks but the disparity between them and those coming to see t hem was still so great as to render it a sort of monkey show.  What they lost did not equal what they gained, they lost chiefly food security.

I could also see that getting new or reinforced economics going in the village was an expensive project and required a lot of effort and patience.  I don't know if that was my job to start for them as much as to work with them in a direction, to encourage.

There were so many factors working against the Akha that it wasn't a normal situation.   They were not a consumer mindset people.  A lot of thier motivation was not in that direction.  Except in cases of malnutrition and illness, they quite enjoyed who they were and their place in the mountains.

I was working on helpin to market their sewing but this never took off too well.  I was faced by the problem that it wasn't all that easy to get people to sew on demand and it wasn't that easy to get it to the US and sold.  The Akha never got paid much for their work so were not very interested to sell it.  I had Booh Saw in the flat village make very nice jackets for me, just one for myself once a year.

They normally got barely $20 for a jacket that took them a month to make.

I tried to encourage the growing of cotton and dying and weaving the traditional cloth.

I finally found one Akha village near Ban Song past Phayao that grew cotton still and I bought some there to start a machine for taking out the seeds, the Akha still knew how to make one, in Ah Chooh's village, the Boeuh Maw, and then to spin, weave and dye it.  I already was selling Akha spindles in the US but not very many of them.

 

The Flat Village 2002

I hadn't visited the flat village in a long time.  Mehh Nmm was getting married to one fellow there over by the cattle house.  Meeh Nmm and Booh Saw had been the teachers for the children.

There were really a lot of people in the village for the party and we ate well and had fun and lots of good smoothe Akha whiskey.

Clear and sweet, I didn't eat much other than little white radish as I drank it.  I tried to remember all the faces, I knew them of course, but I tried to let my memories float back and credit it to each one of them, we were good friends now but with the Booh Sah and Ah Meeh thing and long delays on the fish project I had been away from them so long.

The guy who had gotten the face infection was always funny and telling stories.  So was Loh Guuh but he was dead now, shot.

I came this night on a motorbike in the dark, was really cold.  Many memories came to me slowly.

I was still invstigating the death of Loh Guuh and it also ended up being mentioned in the Bangkok Post article, the police chief of Chiangrai Province saying it was barbarian to kill someone this way.

So pleasant to talk to old friends when recovering from bad events and bad times, like remembering them, coming together once again to renew that which is left and still surviving so that it doesn't faid away.

Booh Nmm that morning had squatted near the fire and poked herself on a stick and bled furiously.  I took her to the hospital and she got better and returned home, I didn't ask if they had to stitch her or not.

 

Forced Relocation - Fallout

A discouraging event

It turns out that Ah Zeh, his whole family, was buying and selling pills through Ah Zeeh, the older brother, who himself was sleezy.  A gamble, make some money, I don't blame them for wanting to, but a bad gamble.  It is discouraging that it came to that.  Course with the economics and despair of the flat village it is most surprising that they all aren't doing that.

Day to day work, day wages, ot hardly enough to eat, some days no work, no land that they own, working with lots of insecticide and pesticide, not a good life.

I knew all the families and it bothered me that I couldn't spend more time with them all or do more for them.

 

Jan 3rd. 2001

Infant Passes on

On the first of January Meeh Paw my adopted 3 year old daughter died after we had cared for her for two years since her brain damage at the hands of poor medical care in Maechan and Chiangrai.  We buried her today next to Meeh Sah and her child.  Not with the traditional because of the complications of her death from a long illness.

Booh Sah, her mother, took care of her house, dressed in traditional clothes, 17 of us men carried Meeh Paw up into the ever consoling hands of the kind jungle.  I cleared a place for her and we dug a grav, burrying her with her clothes, her head to the west.

I cleared the brush around the three graves and made a stake for her head place which I also braced with rocks.  W placed three tiny stones on top, and planted grass from the house on top of the grave.  Stopping the bad, giving hope to the good, to grow up again.

All the old men gathered for dinner, none of the old women came, I didn't know why.

Booh Sah felt very lonely I could tell.  When a child dies the women don't come to the house.  Only the men and the women and faily who live there.  The village men all come, not the women, in the hope that whatever the ailment that killed the child, it does not quickly spread.

Meeh Paw had not eaten much in two years, drinking off the bottle, barely aware of what was around her, and her passing seemed a great kindness.  Barely hearing, not recognizing anything with her eyes or hands.

Then she suddenly went down over two or three months.

People don't die easy and Meeh Paw never appeared to surrender an inch. 

We mourn in sadness at what was lost, the sun slowly setting on the village, Booh Sah, her mother, sitting on the porch of her house, resting her head against the post, silent.

 

Scabies

Feb 28, 2001

One can not imagine how miserable scabies could make a person unless you have had it one time.

When you go in the villages and find adults or children covered in mites, their skin sore, cracked, broken, b leading and not a moments rest, well your heart goes out to the people in times like that.

I give out as many treatments of the medicine as I can and hope it helps.  If usd carefully more than one time it works very well.  Sometimes it was accompanied by fungus cap when infecting children.

 

The Chickens

The chickens always came to my house.  The old lady said yep, they ate everything.  They did.  Nope, can't fence them in she said. 

Well, they never stopped so I'd have to fence the place.  I tore it all down first instead.

 

A case of contrast

The flat village and the middle and upper village.

 

Woman and child, joe's truck, kt, now at farm south

 

Ah Zeh

Ah Zeh was my friend from the flat village that came from Huuh Yoh Lisaw and then later moved back up to Huuh Yoh with his folks when they moved back.  There wasn't much future in the Flat Village.

His brothers were worse than useless. Sometimes you can feel bad blood. Ah Zeh was for himself at least clever but maybe he spoke too much and got some of the others angry at him.  His first wife was Meeh Sah.  She died and I had to bury her.  His second wife was from Mae Salong area.  A real complainer, older than he, before married with one son who stayed home with the folks. He had one son with her also.

One brother lived in the upper mission village from the flat village, I had not seen him in a long time.

He was "christian" whatever that meant.  His hut did not portray anything Akha since it was the mandatory non Akha construction.  The Christians were very careful to invade every aspect of Akha life with their racist ideology to make sure that nothing remained that had any resemblance to being Akha.  Their reason for this was that every aspect of Akha life was satanic in its original form.

Ah Zeh's mother and father lived back up on the mountain.  They were old now.  Mom was still fat and full of one eye, Dad was thin and small, silent, but excellent humored and able to laugh aside about some secret. Mom was a laugher, and always good at hospitality.  She also looked out for  herself and never did find the cymbols that I left at her house during the dance which had "disappeared".  They were a gift from a friend who had in turn received them as a gift, so they were sort of special to me, worn, broken in, perfect sound for dances.

Ah Zeh's father's heart was broken more than once, one son in prison, and just of late his grandson died in the house.  He showed me under the hut where a piece of wood was that he cut for making the spindles for me that I needed but it was fresh and still yellow inside so he hadn't buried it in the earth yet to cure it and turn it black.  I would wait.  When I came to check once he was at the rice mill, a small one put together there in the village. Run by a small kubota type single cylinder diesel.

He was a friend.  He made good tea always, looking to see when my glass drew down.  When he had been relocated to the flat village he had brought many worn boards with him. It was always pleasant to sit with those boards, to sit there with the feet resting on that one foot board, burnished by hands and years of wear.

He had planted some plants around his hut, sort of like trying to catch up with the jungle, since there was nothing at all at the new location, they all just got dumped in a fresh plowed field.

Booti had made me a place to sleep that evening. 

The old village site was lush with plants of course, since it was right in the jungle and the huts were still visible even some shreds but someone had come a year later and burned what they could to get rid of the signs.

So there was a little pine apple, a little sugar cane, some herbal medicine plants, a stash of black ginger. They said that the black ginger the police treated like it was illegal but it was very valuable as medicine and the Akha were good at raising it. 

Ah Seh's father also made different kinds of basket things for me when I needed them and had the money to buy them.

He would tell me of some secret, of some event, the background to a particular matter. He would hint at it then it would come out but he seldom would speak if his wife was there.  Or if  I happened to be talking to his wife, then he would give me a look like I should come back later to hear the rest of the matter.

In the evenings he would be taking care to cut up the big leaves of that one plant he collected, or banana stalk, and boiling it up into a mash to feed a pig or two he had stashed in a little hutch behind his sons hut. Always his hands were busy and careful.  And always I was welcome, more than welcome to come and how ever long I stayed it was never long enough.

I remember how sad he was when his son's wife died.

 

The Sniper and Shooting of Sah Jeh

Sah Jeh

11 Feb 99, Shooting

Dear Friends:

It has been a busy week.

Two nights ago shortly after I left the home of a regional Akha Head Man

(an official of a higher rank than a village head man) two gunmen came up the back steps of his house and shot him.

Fortunately I had stopped by for a meeting around 8:30 pm on the 9th.  After some tea and getting the matter resolved I left and returned to the cultural center just a few hundred yards down the hill from his house, where we are slowly developing the cultural center project.

I was out doors from a wedding at one hut and had a direct line of sight

up the hill to his house probably a kilometer away in all.  Shortly

after I left he had dinner with his family on the back porch and then

after finishing dinner, he was having a smoke and a large white barn owl

flew in and landed on his porch right next to him and he caught it and put it in a basket.

He is about 50 years old.  A very pleasant gentleman.

His wife sat inside the door just a few steps away watching tv, the cook

in the kitchen, his son next door at the groundskeeper’s house.

One man came up the one steps in the dark across from him, another at

the steps to his right, he jumped up out of his chair and turned in the

door to his right trying to get a gun and the first man shot him with a

high powered handgun from very close just as my friend was able to get

in the door.  He was stooped over in a run, the bullet entered below his

right shoulderbone and tore a large hole as it came out just above his lung and below his collar bone before it tore the hinge off a door, hit a concrete wall and went through a window and hit the stone wall out front and turned again and kept on going.

I heard the shots down below and I and another fellow jumped back in the

truck and raced back up the hill.  By the time we got there we had him

on the phone and they told us he had been shot.  The gunmen raced down

the road to the other intersection.  When we got to the house they lead

my friend out, blood soaking his clothes and got him loaded inside the

truck.  His wife came and we raced down the mountain to the nearest

hospital which we made in about fifteen minutes.  He was bleeding quite

badly and we were able to get medication into him to keep him from going

into shock before they loaded him in another ambulance and got him south

to Chiangrai at an ICU there.  As of this morning he is still alive but risks complications from blood clots and other trauma to the area.

We were fortunate to have the ambulance and be near by when it happened or he would not have been so lucky.

We still don’t know who the gunmen were though perhaps he does, he was under police guard at the hospital when I left.

A note regarding the phone, as it turns out you don’t dial the 0 before the 1 when calling from out of the country.

Only for in country.

The Cultural Akha Long House should be done in about a week or so, there is still some concrete work to do for the showers and bathrooms.  We got the septic dug two days ago.

We have made a lot of progress in a lot of areas and are now focusing on the book production work so contact us if you are particularly interested in this part of the project.

Matthew McDaniel

 

The Death of Maw Lay

 

The Death Of Mah Tah

01 Karaoke

Beads - The younger man who took care later to the computers.

 

Bladder stone boy, flat village

They  really didn't know what was wrong with him and he was suffering so much.  I took him to the hospital and they removed a very large hard and rough stone from his bladder, probably the result of drinking a lot of stony water. Ah Joh.

 

Flat Village:

The Great Struggle of this village

When the Wind Blew, the magnificent place these people came from.

The women of this village

 

Booh Teeh's mother

Booh Teeh's daughter born without anus, herbicide, the red stuff on the corn, paraquat?

Booh Teeh new how to deal with the prison well

 

Booh Teeh's Father

The Day That The Second Wife Of His Father Died

Harmonica

The New Dress

 

Nyeeh Pah Meeh Chooh and the garden project

There are two spirits that live there.

The Akha said that there were Nyeeh Pahs and there were Nyeeh Pahs.  Some just used it, but Meeh Chooh, true Nyeeh Pah or not was a very beautiful singer.

The police handcuffed her one time, someone in the area was selling meth, they never grabbed the Thai boys buying, just the Akhas who they thought lived within a hundred meters of someone who was selling. I had seen this happen so many times.  It was all very unjust and the US was now pushing this world militarization on the entire globe.

The death of the baby girl, on the floor of the hut.

This was the daughter of the wife of the second son of Meeh Chooh.

She had been sick for three days.  I didn't speak much Akha at the time and they meant that she had been sick "like that" (really bad) for three days but had really been sick already for twelve days.

 

Abaw Dteeh's Wife Dies

She was sick with a fever. No one told me. There was one of these big Afect festivals in the village, the kind where they left the place full of trash afterwards, and when I found out it was too late.  She wasn't sick enough to die, but without some care and medicine she would.  These people who were relocated, they were not used to the flat land without the wind and all the heat and bugs.  A lot of them died, I don't know how many of the old people but it is a cruel thing when you take old people who were born and lived on mountains and you make them move to the sweltering humid flat lands.  Its simple. They die.

 

Abaw Dteeh Dies

He was the Dzoeuh Mah.  Her husband.  He had emphasema.  I took care of him for a year buying him inhalers which were very expensive and then he finally died one time while I was in the mountains.

 

The Day I Bury The Man From The Lone Hut

The Thai helped me do this. They paid for the workers and dug the hole.  It was rather amazing.  The head man who was later killed challenged them and argued over it till they all pulled out guns.

He didn't want no Christian from down below buried in their cemetary of their Christian village.

I met them because the coffin shop people on the highway took me to see them when I went to buy the coffin.  I need a truck to haul it and they took me to this fish pond place and these guys were all drinking and eating and they paid for it all, rounded up the workers and helped carry it up the steep trail, the daughter and mother carrying small hastily built wooden crosses with them.

 

Booh Saw's Father Does Speed

The electric wire and the beating (back and kidney, for smoking opium)

Later the black smith, Bah Jeeh is all we called him, he was from Ah Dtoh Akha below Huuh Mah Akha, and he helped Loh Mah to get off speed.

 

Booh Seh's Son Goes To Prison

He got caught up on the hill trying to move a lot of pills.  The young guys did this, they had seen what poverty was and in an attempt to get out of it, they took the risk. Many died, many went to prison.

 

Ah Zeh's Father And Brother Ah Zeeh

The gun, the drug buying Thais. They get caught, the son goes to prison for a very long time.

 

The Death of My Friend Meeh Sah

The blood transfusion. I found her at the hospital, hot with fever.  I moved her to another hospital and she died because there was not enough time and it was too late.

 

Suicide

Then the twenty eight year old Akha woman drank poison, methomyl, and died.  She had a sick daughter.  50 meters from the chinese mission there.

A man he did it too.

Then a girl, she used a wire and hung herself next to the mission on a tree.

One guy at Pah Nmm swan dived with a rope.

 

Death Of An Elder

He was old and I knew his day was coming when he told me his jaw was tightening up.  I had always known him as frail. He was the Dzoeuh Mah which is like a cultural headman for an Akha village. 

He called me often to his stoop. I tried to always go. The last time he referred to his jaw.  I knew he was concerened.  He asked me to care for the spirit gate and make the trail big, to move the stones and fill the holes.  I took care of it all immediately.  I gave him one of the new Akha Culture T-shirts that I had.  He was appreciative but a man with things on his mind.

He often had a fever and I helped him for that. I remember once I entered his hut and he was busy injecting himself for fever and cough.  I often brought him an atomizer. 

He had many sons and also as an elder in the village he settled many disputes including in marriages.

But I don’t think he could handle the low land heat.  The government has made his village move from Hua Mae Kom.  His wife had died of fever about this time last year.

But my memories were of him comforting his sick grand child, gathering the blankets around her on the porch where she sat crying.

In the hut his body carefully wrapped I could read the fear on the faces of his son who took over his duties as the new Dzoeuh Mah. His sons faced the uncertain future, both their Nyeeh Pah mother and Dzoeuh Mah father dead now.  And mostly there was only heat, stillness and poverty left, for the wind was gone.

 

 

End

Have a comment or question? Like to know more? Send me an email at akha@akha.org
Copyright 2004, by Matthew McDaniel