Akha Chronicles
Book 1: Maesai
Chapter 31: The Project


Add about Laos now


The Project


My work developed in time to where it had structure and a life of its own, unwinding before me like a long road.

The basic premise of my project was to stave off premature mortality among the Akha and protect or repair their food security while also protecting their choices.


Raise the water all at once

This was the goal of my project, to be long sighted, to do some structural things that would help many Akha not just one.


The strong design of the work


The weakest part of my work

The weakest part of my work is financing the projects.

I was not reaching a large enough audience and not enough money was coming in to finance the projects.  I had many good tested ideas moving at a snail’s pace because there was not enough money to finish them and start another one.

Some efforts were still experimental but the major project categories had all been tested and implemented and it was just a matter of repetition now.

I was also in need of volunteers to just help in doing the projects and increasing our reach. They needed to be people who could understand what it was that they were looking at and knew what a paced solution was.


How this project progressed

Income generation has been a big aspect of keeping this work going.  Money carries the projects, built on good intelligence to their completion.  One can not do without the other but usually the money is the last in coming.

After ten years I carefully made my way into the heart of a village.  This is no small chore, to be surely located in a village.  As one can only do this in a traditional village by way of marriage.

I run a project, I have a vision, but I also have a life, wife, children, to make it all work together is no simple task.  Politics in the village, politics in the family, and then the politics of them both working disparitely or together adds to it all.

With many setbacks I have survived and made it to this point.  Money continues to be the chief limiting factor.  Yet I have persued the options that I have through the outlets which I can find, and often this has included confronting human rights situations.  Of recently it has been stomping down on the army over their abuse and shootings, killings of the Akha people.  I have caught the police in the one region once now and they are more careful about what is going on.


The projects as of now could fall into five categories

1.             Medical Care

2.             Safe water Wells

3.             Literacy and literature in Akha Language

4.             Gardens and seeds

5.             Information and Advocacy

And lots of time visiting, paying attention to what was going on from as low of a profile as possible.


My feelings on the work

With all of it’s shortcomings and hassles I am not sure I would say the job is important but it is one that needs to get done as deserving as any other.

Mostly it is just long hours.  A sense of being overwhelmed all the time, frustration at seeing so many simply fixed problems which you can not fix because there is no money.

After seven years the path of what I wanted to do was pretty clear, there was just a lot of work to do to make that all happen.  It was just large numbers of simple problems to solve.


Book Publishing List

children's workd books level 1,2,3


grammar in english with akha

an akha history

anb akha history for children

4 lingual word books in akha, thai, burmese, english and chinese

akha cultural encyclopedia

akha stories

akha and christianity

akha health care

akha leaderrship

arts and poetry / a photo exhibit

village maps and plotting

akha economics

akha agriculture

lahu, palong, wa

akha environmental inmpact

akha word drills

akha phrase book

akha heritage foundation

photography needed to atttract interest

letter to valianatos

material donations

financial donations

people who would help

share the vision


Mooh Jurh

excatholic priest, married after malaria, knows the language, lives in Tachilek

knows about Paul Lewis’s modification of the truth about the Akha


A Days Work

Oct. 4, 2000

Maesai, Chiangrai, Thailand

As per usual I woke up to a lot of email, questions, potential articles and clarifications on information I was seeking.

By mid day I had that done and more work on the Akha Journal.

I drove down to Chiangrai to seek out some more information regarding sterilizations and faulty vaccines at one of the Akha centers.  Attu was at his office and gave me the name of Hoi Puung Akha near Haen Taek where one child was effected by vaccine.

Sterilizations against the will of the women were a problem still, he commented.

But over all our discussion did not go so well from an ordered standpoint, as I was trying to make progress on organizing some action regarding these issues and it did not appear that I made any progress on that. 

We talked about the missionary problem, that AhJay had lots of girls out of the villages.  He was also talking about a new training centere.  He didn't take girls from just one village, complicating the matter, because he was taking a few from this village and that village, high grading the girls basically.

I perceived a level of frustration deep enough that it didn't want to come to the surface or either a lack of will to go directly at the matters of concern.

After leaving that office I talked to one fellow who had vollunteered to buy a pump for the fish project, but he was busy getting drunk, bought me a beer and said that he really wasn't into it till later, you know, later, you know very later, but gee I am still a good hearted guy.

I headed back north, went on up to San Chai to find out what was going on with Nimit because I heard he was in jail.  Sure enough, his son was having him dried out.  Would be gone at least a month to get him off meth and heroin.  Should have dried out years ago.

Lah Gaw was there talking, and he said he was still working for Leo on writing Akha books about the Culture, but he wanted help teaching Akha people to read.  He said didn't do any good to write books if no one read them.  I agreed.  He commented on all the money the missionaries had to turn the minds of the kids away from their culture and parents but he wanted to do just the opposite of that.

Meeh Chooh wasn't home, her sister was and I wanted to see how she was doing.  She could speak english and I was always looking to find some way to coordinate some organization on activism.  I would have to go up and speak with Ah Zeh more,  he was in Huuh Yoh Akha but used to live in the Huuh Yoh Lisaw village that the army moved, then did four years down in the flat village in Huai Krai before moving back.  Cause living in the flat lands sure didn't work.

I sure had much work to do to get things organized along these lines and it didn't help that there was not much money.


Digging a Well


Baking Bread


First Aid Care


The 4x4 and roads


Cultural differences

The differences between the culture of the Akha and people who would help them is the very start of misunderstandings of the problems and their solutions.  It takes a kind of cultural immersion to be in a similar situation with the Akha to know about these issues.


Economic self survival program for villagers

This would be different for each village but definitely requires input of outside resourcesas well as village networking.


Education opportunities

Educational opportunities must go beyond just what is available via the local schools.


Blue carts like one I bought

I bought these two blue carts for two women.  They paid it half back, and I told them to forget the rest.  And they had stories to tell as well, their babies, one died, one aborted.


Garden ground next to hut

This would be a good idea, but there are a lot of real basic problems that need to be taken care of first.  One is that the Akha need to learn that the world is NOT going to wait for them.  Next they need to be more open and responsive to ideas, ones they can test for themselves. But coralling their pigs and chickens would be a start.  Most of the world lives on food that the chickens don’t get first shot at.


The Akha Nature Conservancy


Enough books for one village, one trainer, one trainee

What is needed is a teacher training program to show how the script is used and teaching skills.  Supplies are also needed.


Trying to keep going here

I have gotten up to many of the villages in Burma with medicine and have run out.  There is no more money for that either.

I have tried my hand at baking bread, selling rubies, selling self published books and taking people on tours.  I enjoy the book publishing the most, and the tours pay for food, medicine and more contact with the Akha but are tiresome.

Tours are now hard to do because of fighting with the army of Khun Sa which has cut the road a number of times at a number of locations.

Then one night the insurgents raided Tachilek, burning this and that and then retreating.  A few foolish  men stayed in some houses at the end of town where the river comes in.  For their wisdom the Burmese troops blasted them and burned down the whole neighborhood.  On would be witness said her husband saw where the Burmese army had gutted them after capturing them.  I know they were captured because after the fire leveled a lot of houses, their escape route was cut off and I saw them raise a white flag on a bamboo pole.  There was a flurry of activity and then people were led away quickly never to be heard of again.

The 27th is Burmese Army Day and we are all expecting a raid on Tachilek of bigger scale before then as a humiliation.

From the Thai standpoint, Maesai would have a mini boom if half of Tachilek got burned down.

I have a visa run and rent coming up.  The latter is more flexible.  The former not quite so.  I go to Cheng Khong for a Lao stamp but it costs 2,000 baht.


Hardest Times in the Project

The hardest times in the project were when there were big bills but not any money one.

And two, when there was some very important progress, political progress a village needed to take the next step on and because they either had no power, or perceived that they had no power, they lingered.

The conflict with the Lahu over the road, Jeh Boh Mooser, while helping Pah Nmm Akha was the most clear case.  The Christian Lahu acted no less than like mafia trying to bully everystep of the way, the Pah Luang, I don't know how he stood up with the constant bullying and the total lack of support from the Ampur's office.


Fundraising and Promotion

This was a very difficult part of my work.  People could say what they liked but it remained difficult.

I spent incredible hours in the years of late building up a web site, I think I had a pretty good one now, but the better it got the more it revealed what needed to be done.

The web site had a story to tell, and topical pages on this and that are not always the best method for this.   If there was a case of being too close to the trees to see the forest, then building a web site can be like that.

I had an email newsletter that went out to many people, yet this did not raise much in the way of funds either.  I linked the newsletter to web pages as well, especially when human rights issues were involved.

With time I saw the hits on the web site go up but there wasn't any increase in donations as a result.  Ultimately if you don't have donations you don't stay in business.

The web site was in two categories, problems and projects to help the Akha.  Lots of pictures in both regards.

Sometimes I built the project up to the point where I was getting a lot done and then it could come crashing down and end up in total disrepair for more than six months.  This was very discouraging because I lost much ground when this occurred and this meant a great drop off in crucial help into the villages.

Thailand was a long ways away and people had a difficult time relating to what was being done.  Many people in the west, for whatever comforts they had, were engaged in a struggle to win the rat race which didn't leave much hope that the Akha would get a spot very high on their list of must do's.





Belongs in NGO's

I had known of Affect, the Akha run center for culture that Leo set up for some time.  Nowadays Leo didn’t have anything to do with it, but that was because of a dispute about removing Ajew from the organization, and Ajew was Leo’s wife’s brother.  It was said that Ajew had been arrested for dealing heroin and fled to Burma and Affect lost sponsors because of that.

Would be interesting to know who informed them also and why.

At any rate, Affect was trying different tacts under Attu and was more open than before and that suggested that things could be coordinated.  Last time that I was there Attu showed me how someone was trying to establish a cooperative of hostels, with heavy religious overtones but was saying that they were a “pro Akha culture” organization, that inbetween Bible camp I suppose, sort of like a culture fair, after you’ve wiped the culture out.

I left some t-shirts “Just Say ‘NO’ To Missionaries” and said that I would be back as often as possible.  Much different air than the time I came and Ajew had rushed to the door and done all he could to run me off during a meeting.  Course from Paul Lewis and Leo on down, people had always been trying to be the ‘gateway” to the Akha.

Attu was quite cognizant of the situations but had missed on one where someone from the Bangkok post did an article on twin births and the killing of the babies.  He thought it was good coverage because it included about Affect’s milk program, but it was actually quite dirogatory about the Akha in general.  Leo wrote a long letter to the editor to try and correct this, limit some of the damage done. But journalists were always taking jabs at the hill tribe in general as were people, holding them to a higher standard of criticism than general society, prejudice, I think we call it.

Just as a note I should add, that the Akha feel that they can not raise twins at the same time, so don’t allow them to live, or only allow one to live, or even give one away, seems to vary, but if one gets to know the living conditions that the Akha have survived it would appear that raising two babies at the same time would just about do the women in.  Affect sought to provide milk for the mothers with twins, this lasted for a while, but the general assistance to the people in the villages is very low, the need very high and the exploitation (read the benefits taken from the Akha for which they are not paid) is quite high.  So unless a person can intervene and change the economic reality of their lives people would be best to leave the Akha on their own.  In the west people abort children for convenience all the time, in the millions actually, yet the rather rare event of killing twins is highly condemned by westerners.  A handful to millions, where is the consistency in this?


leo’s library

never visited



meeting first time at som mah kohm

he comes out to hush me off because he figures he has something to hide, which he did, selling heroin

Brother of Leo's wife from San Jaluen


The "project" mentality


Leo and the missing money



The Computer

The computer had nearly taken over my life because it was the only way from Thailand that I could stay connected at all.

Yet the extensive relationship and time spent in this relationship became a life of its own, it was an absolute king, nearly bowed down to.

The most profound effect of a computer was that it stole our desire to write which really was a part to a greater event, reflection.  By the computer I meant this email and internet relationship which used the desire to write, that energy, up just doing the business of communication, and then left nothing for the self.


Looking for a stable Balance  Sept 2001

In my life now engaged so deeply in this work I look for a stable balance that I can make of the work. No bigger, just better, an internal peace and a project paeace, carefully going about my work.

And that in this stable form it wou ld bring back more joy and rejuvenation.


Disaster Sept 11, 2001

When the World Trade Centers were  hit by planes on this day, I was in an Akha village during the swing festival, and the Akha called us to see the hazy images on a village TV. David Arora the mushroom expert was there and it saddened us both deeply.  More than that, it stopped my donations coming in and I was already having a tough time holding onto the building. 

I decided to move out, due to that and the neighborhood drunks. Two or three falangs in particular, Robert was one, a new zealand guy with long hair who lived above a brothel, and Kevin, another who was an american computer expert who was drinking the rest of his life away, some deep hurt driving him to the bottle and destroy himself.

But the truck was in horrible repair and so it required that I sell much of the equipment in the building to repair it and make it road worthy since I would have to depend on it much more after the building was gone and I was living in the villages.  And still there wasn't enough money, and I poured what I had into the truck and paid to haul what was left of the building equipment to the mountains much of which I sorted and gave away when I had the time.


Disconnected, exhausted

Sept 2001

Sometimes when one travels one can feel disconnected, even lost off the flat world of friends and the familiar into the bigger spaces.

But also when taking a moment in themidst of much burden and work one can say, "Where the hell am I?" and by this I don't mean physically but in correlation to ones own place of awareness and sense of belonging in life.

This can also be a sign of exhaustion.  I remember so well from mechanic days, restless, on themove, exhaustion, getting a hotel room near the highway, a lousy diet every day, crashing on the bed with the shakes, turning the TV on just to hear human voices.


My Akha Work

Sept 2001

I didn't like to see how the Aka were treated so now for these many years I tried to help them improve their situation.

I grew the project big enough that there were many categories of both need and my organized effort to meet that need.

Frankly it became too much far too much, yet I am not so sure that discouraged me as much as it just made me tired.  Course there were also a lot of times of discouragtement.  Bills to pay.  Projects that bogged down and were un completed, things like this.

There was in the past much lightness in my mind especially upon waking. This had gotten weighed down with toil and obscured from the light till I experienced it seldom.  Those were feeligns of great joy and when I wrote during these times my memory of it even my experience of it was much better more intensely vivid.

At 43 I had a guard in my mind that watched all I thought about and hoped to write and t his guard also edited me down  to nothing.

Sometimes the guard took orders frm me but many tmes he took orders fromothers, and edit down to ntohing he did.  Matter of fact he edited what I even thought about to where a whole lot of freedom of mind was lost and I wrote nearly nothing.

And writing had alwasy been what I enjoyed most.

As we get older we get more in chains, not less, if we are not careful. We do it to ourselves, being at disunity, at cross purposes.

Not eveyrthing we write must have immediate meaning.  The important point is to edit nearly nothing, just write it down.


Taking Care

Jan 2003

I did not take care enough to myself and what I enjoyed.  Now I was in a hotel room and coming to understand that this is what I wanted. That I had taken no time at all to write, to give myself some leave of duties to do what I wanted to do which was to work on this story of life in Thailand but also MY life and what it was coming to, all the years gone by.

For one thing here I was running this project, doing all this information collection and pushing assistance out into the mountains to these people and I had no money most all of the time and no funding and was living pillar to post all the time.  My truck was broken down and when it wasn't I could not pay the bill for having it fixed, so it lay hostage in the shop for many weeks till I got it out again. Not nice. 

I had nothing to sell, sold everything was still in debt.  I didn't think much financially of my work, didn't pound on so many doors to get money, not sure one should blow their own horn.  There were grants to write but that too was a full time job and I would never have gotten the information in the mountains had I sat in town on a phone line to do that.  The situation was really at odds with itself.  Gathering the funds was one thing, doing the work another and I prefered however broke to keep rolling in the villages and doing the work.

Human rights and security for the Akha.


The Work

Jan 16, 1999

The work is going fine as far as being all lined out.

Now there is only very much a shortage of moneys.

All that I worked to organize is pretty much in order and now it is just a matter of repetition.


Raising Funds for the Ambulance

When I first bought the four door truck it was a great job.

I did not have enough donors and it cost $9000.  I got it down from that to $6000.  But then after that it was a real struggle that took me two more months.


Setting Limits

Setting limits for people is very important.

Many people don't set limits, but you have to if you are not going to have people walk all over you and this is particularly true when you are trying to help people.


Planning My Strategy

1999 or earlier.

The burden was on me.  There was much to do.  I had ten thousand dollars coming in by way of a donation and I needed at least thirty to thirty five to do all that I needed to do.

I had lots of obligations to resolve.

I needed to firmly anchor internet, phone, office and computers.

At the same time I needed a vehicle, and also a truck for hauling.

There was no way I could do all three at present yet whichever one I looked at was then most important.

If I didn't do something about a bu ilding and more space and computers I ran the risk of loosing the interest of the language workers I did have.

There had to be some creature comforts like cooking and what have you, TV, etc, b ecause it wasn't all work nor coud it be all work.


A Lull in the stress

Feb 8, 1999

A lull in stress.  I don't know how I find it sometimes at all.  I got a call from the states that helped jog the mind.  Sometimes just meeting someone here and talking to a hoepful face helps as well.

Part of the probem is there is just way too much going on.  Pieces of this project and that, writing to do for email and so forth, tons.

I miss h ow simple Maesai used to be.   A simple place  with simple friendships, a little  too much spare time, etc, now it is extremely crowded, hectic.

Jogging off track onto new strategies helps.  Getting past enough brain free time to be ableto relax the thi nkng resources of the brain.

Tyring to enjoy Maesai.  Its an enjoyable place but I get so busy I forget.



The Project

Finding investment for the village

Continuing to Vitalize the project

Village Circuit

Village meds, journal

Bangkok Akha

New Camera

Akha Report For WEB

New WEb Site tera-byte



Red Radio

Moving to the village

Getting a phone

Stopping the killings and night time shooting raids by the army

Getting opium smokers to quit

Need phone line and notebook computer, floppy drive, fire wire, sony repair, mpeg camera sony



Journal Number One

Email Journal

Year 98 A Thru Aug

Wed, 29 April 98

Someone suggested a weekly update for everybody as to what gives on this end of things.

So here goes.

Hope that you are all well.

Life here bumps along in little starts and stops.

When there are funds some projects move forward, when there aren’t, those projects wait while other things get done such as computer data entry. Thank God for nice portable Apple computers.

Right now let me give you an overview of all the projects:


Language resource development.

The Akha language has very little literature in it. In order to build a dictionary, a wharehouse of words for would be writers, you have to collect literature.  It is sort of a catch 22 situation.  At any rate, there are about 6 or 7 books and I am working to get these books tranlated into the new script which I have designed and then these books will have english parallel text added to them so that not only are they available in the new text to Akhas but they will also be able to serve as helps for learning the language and learning more about the culture.

I am also working on building this wharehouse of words (what we call a corpus) by paying Akha’s to write me lists of words.  So far I have about 3,000 words entered into the computer.  I figure that I will end up with more than 60,000 words.  So just a little bit of work to do.

Then there is a grammar which I paid to have written up and it needs to be added to and then entered into the computer with parallel english text.

The only Akha language video there is is a video tape done by world vision about AIDS so I have had that written out and will be adding parallel text to it as well.  This process takes about three steps.  First you have to pay someone to write it all down, that is in the old script because it is the only one people know and there are only a few people who can write that.  Then you must pay someone else to move it from the old script to the new script.  Only two people know how to do that and one doesn’t want to work so a 17 year old Akha girl does it all.  A slow process, about ten hand written pages per day.  After that it has to go to another person who adds the parallel english text.


NT project.

    This is one of the books that is currently being converted.  Once converted to the new script I give the pages to a computer school and the teacher enters it into the computer.  It is a little too much data entry for me with all the other stuff I have to do.  The script conversion is 25% complete.  After it is in the new script it will have to be edited for acuracy and some problems corrected.  Then a parallel english text will be added for the internet copy, and the single text version can be printed.  At present distribution of the NT is very controled by the bigger denominations and is quite expensive by standards here, about $6 if you can lay your hands on a copy.


Children’s book project.

This is for the literacy project.  The words and example sentences are done and I am now waiting for the sketches that go with each workd to be finished, then the text of the book must be edited.  Then a lot has to be added to the front and back of the book like grammar and penmanship drills.

When the press is paid off, $1500 is owed, then I will begin printing on about 5-20,000 copies of this book which will be around 100 pages long.  Another printer will make up the 4 color cover.

That many copies will cost a couple thousand dollars at most.  For villages in Burma and thailand.


Culture book project.

Many of the old people who have knowledge of Akha culture and law are passing on, so I want to get a book done in both Akha and English about Akha law, customs and culture.  There is great misunderstanding about this history on the part of foreigners and no good books on the subject.


Wells project.

This is a new and very exciting aspect of the work here.  The first well is done although it will need to be upgraded.  The village workers thought it was deep enough, I disagreed, but sometimes the object lesson is the best lesson.  So we will need to chip the slab away from the top concrete casing, then lift all the casings out, 17, and dig out all the gravel, about two truck loads, that surrounded the casing, and then go down another 10 feet so that even in low season there is enough water.  It would also be nice to put a small electric pump on the well so that all the hand pumping is saved.  Of course a small electric pump means more waste, so you have to have a little extra to draw from.  That will cost about two hundred dollars to do and the village is ready to do it when I get around it.  The pump will cost about $140.

Then when i get funds I will be doing well number 2 in another village.

About $1000 to $1200.

The well project was an extreme success.  Placed in the center of the village, it gives them easy access to quantities of clean water for washing, bathing and drinking that they didn’t have before.  Neither do they have to walk long distances for dirty water.  The well is deep and sealed and that prevents contamination.

Wells that are shallow can be contaminated by debri, chemicals such as paraquat which is a nice little killer, and human refuse.

So the well makes life much easier on a village.  They say water made people so that it could get from one place to another.  Water is very happy right now.

Well projects will continue to be one of the best cost effective ways to improve village life and health.

In the future I dream of getting a small well drilling rig so that I can put wells of the drilled type in even the most remote mtn village where you have to go much deeper to get water unless you are working with a spring.


The medical project is slow right now. Roads here are not good and I am in dire need of a 4x4.  The motorcycle, which is paid off, though a real good thing, is not very safe and when you must put on lots of miles it is risky.  As well many mountain villages are already not accessible due to the rains, and the trips in are long.  Blane knows what these roads look like.  So with the rains about 98% of the villages are off limits and with the long trips in and out it is impossible to bring any sick person out with so little traction. There is the greatest need for a 4x4.  This will radically change the nature and impact of medical services to villages from one of hit and miss to one of reliability.  At present the situation is comparable to living in portland or further to Eugene and having to travel abandoned logging roads to see the doctor in Salem.  With very little cash, no identity papers and no one to clear the way this is nearly impossible to do so the mothers only risk it when it usually is alread too late and the child dies.  Infant mortality is very high.

As I have money I am distributing wormer in the villages for children six months and older.  This has been a great success with the health and weight put on the children very noticeable and the parents all commenting about it.  Just a little bit of the gospel I think.

So those are the main three projects and the associated needs.

1. Building the language in writing

    Recording the history of the people

    Encouraging people to write about their culture, their lives.

2. Wells

3. Medical work


A typical week goes like this:

Many hours on computer communicating with people about the project.

Web page upgrading and revisions

Many hours entering Akha text into document form Visiting villages, taking out medicine Last night making swing repairs in village with well Spending hours in villags hearing about their lives, building relationships, building language and culture skill.  It take a lot of time before you get parts of the picture and know what is going on.  Finding an artist for the children’s book, found one, price is right, about $100 for 220 sketches of 2”x2” size.

Got back video script. $20

Taking Burmese language lessons.

Paying for a tutor of english for the book transcriber girl, Meeh Jooh Looking for another Akha tutor who can speak english, very hard to find.

Taking people to the dentist

Sometimes I pull teeth myself in the villages if the tooth doesn’t look like it can be saved.  They have an interesting way of handling a toothache here.  The place the flat side end of a heavy chopping knife on the tooth and strike it flatly with a piece of wood.  The impact on the tooth “resets” it and relieves the toothache in many cases.

The cook was sick for three days

One house burned down in village next to hers

Working on plant propigation techniques

Taking more photos and video in villages

Visited a distant mountain village to suss out some projects People visit for medicine Talking to Akhas in search for more people who can be trained to transcribe books into the new text as I have about five or six more to do.

Clean up trash left in a village by a party that another village put on.

Locate source of a good electric pump that can pull water up from 50 feet.

Help rewire a light in a hut that happens to have electric on the Thai side.

Enter a thousand Akha words and phrases into computer Kill a few rats in my room.

Get rid of a foot long lizard that lives in the wall and barks like a sick duck at all hours of the night.  Called Toka ( toe-kay) lizards.  Ugly things, big thick bodies and fat stubby tails.  Eyes big as grapes.

Saving up $50 so that I can get the septic pumped of the girl’s house who is working on the script.  No toilet for a month I find out yesterday.  They hate to impose.

Trying to sell jackets for the Akha women who sew them, may have one sold for 2,000 baht which is about $50, and considerably more than the 300 they would normally get for them.  That money goes all to them to encourage the work in the traditional ways.  Having the girl who transcribes the books teach the cook how to read and write so she can tell her life story in her own language.

And so it goes. No emergencies this week because I can’t get into very many villages to hear about them.

David Atkin our attorney is coming soon.

Looking forward to that.

And that is this weeks update.

Hope you all stay well.

Getting more rain here now as we slowly ease into the rainy season in about a month or so.  All the fruits are in full production here as the hot season reaches its peak.

Does anyone have  email for Brian?

(for those on the board)




Behind on the Bills

Much of the time now I am running to keep it all going.  I know I am making progress but deep down my heart does not feel good, like th ere is something missing.

Part of it is becuse of the bills and so far behind.  This is robbing my peace.

At this date then is the baker to finish, the fish tank well to finish digging, the press, tires and other repairs for the truck.

And also I am not writing as much as I used to do. This also leaves me something missing.

So now on almost n o funds I am juggling to keep afloat.               

My mind is m uch short of money making ideas.

My little boys are growing up.  Isaac and victor.  Meeh Daw as well. 

I have hopes to help the Akha with Tea, coffee, fruit trees and a new truck for hauling it all.

But I can't even do my rent.

The entire project depends on all the power of my soul and thought and skill to keep moving forward.  I am endlessly chalenged to do better but my total sum is either not best applied or not enough.

I am not fooled that there will be some good economic quick fix.  People who are not here doing what I am doing believe in that from their distant comfort zones.

I meet magical people, like lone pilgrims who flit by my path and gaze, share many ideas and energy and then are gone, this is all I have.

Much of email and the internet is waste, people wanting knowledge and information while giving nothing back.



Vitality of the Project

In this project it is always a lot of effort to keep the viitality of the project alive, keep moving efforts in the village forward and at the same time have progress to report via email to friends.

Sometimes, no, many times this was very discouraging because there were so little funds that I had to work with.

You can't make something out of notthing.

Just getting out to the villages was a large fuel cost.

I was bent on getting the printing press and having books to delvier.

Very frustrating to date.


Slow Projects

Many projects that I planned and got done took a long time to finish.  There was much effort to bu ild one's way into an Akha village, or to get a project done as there were many hurdles and hold ups.  You really had to hold onto the vision with exceptional patience to do it all.

I tried to do projects as segments, till they were done, lots of mini events till the bigger project was completed as often I did not have the tiny funds to do it all in one swoop.

When not much appeared to be happening I went around and pushed this or that small event, moved at this, finished at that, never resting once understanding that all these small events could be pushed forward.

As well good work, for me, takes lots of time to think.  Writing is a direct relationshiop of how happy I am and how settled my heart is.


Surviving this Job

Bottom line was that I survived.  My project, my goals, all survived.  My visions survived.  And I kept moving it all forward.  Many times it was very painful, and when it all came smashing down in this piece or that piece sometimes my heart had nthing to survive on, the pain of sould no answer got, sorrow only, and the joy fleeting away.

The feeling of an empty soul.

Something beautiful torn to shreds down stream never seen again.


Nature of my work

Jan 2, 2002

Nature of my work changed and focused with my full move to the village.  My bills dropped quickly but I still had old bills to pay.  About 2,000 dollars.

But the information that I got at the village level and the potential for intervention grew very mcu.

I wasn't so far from getting a p hone line to my location in the village. 

I was using flyers and getting actually more visitors to the project now.

I had succesfully made the transition to the village but now the bill on the truck repair was killing me.


We had a meeting

We had a meeting where we talked about alerting the Akha to human rights abuses and that they should inform me of each one and I would make reports.


UN Report

I have to collect all these reports of abuse and then file them with the UN.


WE got 8 days

Eight days of articles in the Bangkok Post on the killings of the Akha by Army and Police.



The frustration of my job was ack of resources, here I was on the edge of the situation, in full opportunity to do a lot and nearly no resources.

I didn't need a lot, but I needed some.

It was very frustrating to endlessly witness the need of the Akha, often desperate need, difficult health problems and not have the money to fix it.

Having just recovered from malaria I could feel their difficulty so much more.


The fish project

Lack of Progress

The long house was lived in 2001 off to a new start.

There was still the digging and the pump work to do, I think nearly 20-25,00 baht would finish that.

The fish tanks grew a tremendous growth of surface hyacinth.  I wondered what they could be used for. 

But with a poump I would soon have a massive year around vegetable garden growing everythign imaginable. 

There were still catfish living in the water, the cover growth saved them from the heat.  Tanks covered with this would be best for starting new fish in.  The little ones.

The long house prperty had lots of potential.  I wanted to get the looming and dying going here, planting cotton and dye plants.

There was also room nearby for a dance arena.

I had very much to do.

Also it was very obvious I needed to buid a grants data base, for finding money.


Struggle and Peace

Life here is not as bad as it used to b e.  My infra structure projects are close to being completed, more solutions and money coming along.

Each morning I wake up to fresh hope, and vision for what new steps my work will take.


Difficulties of Developing This Work

The closer I get to finishing a phase of the project often the more difficult it gets again.

The bakery, need  a bigger mixer.

Teh fish tanks, need to finish well dig.

The press, etc.

No major obstacles, just not enough funds to do what needs to be done.


State of Affairs Feb 28, 2001

The project is moving along but there is not near enough money for the most basic services.

The fish project is waiting for the money to finish the dig.

The press has yet to be purchased.

There needs to b e about $500 per month in fuel and tire money alone in order to get out to all the villages.  $1000 would cover repairs and food.  I drove a lot, something people didn't realize, it took this if you were going to really know what was going on.

I know I am still not where I want to be but better than the last year.


Tight Money

Financially Dec. was very hard for me during the first two weeks after malaria not because of the malaria but because there was no money nd I lived on nothing but oats.

But then around the 15th I had the encouragement that the Italy video "When the Wind Blew" made with Lorenzo showed on Italy National RAI TV.

Good reports came back soon after that, but won't know if any money wil be raised till later.  The hope is that there will be and Lorenzo has tried harder than any other to do so, but it can still fail.

These things are always more difficult than one thinks.


My Day Easily Spins

It is monday 30 Oct. 2000.

Hard to believe all the same day.  Last night I had a late meeting.  The clutch went out on the truck saturday.  So sunday I rented a motorbike, Checked the fish tanks, then my meeting ran past midnight but  still wnet into the mountains to see Ah Chhooh, she is so dear to me, and my son Victor Ah Soh.  They were shaping at past 2 Am when I came up the mountain to the village out of the fog.  I checked them, the struggled to sleep against the chill and a wind that shook the hut intenseley.  On stilts.

I woke up early, my wife brought me my son, he is so beautiful, such incredible face and perfect eyes.

After a quick cold water splash shower I checked the bookmarkes the women were sewing for me.

Then a quick breakfast and down the hill through the army checkpoint again.

And al the way 90 kilometers back to maesai.  The wind pushes hard against the body making me tired as I drive the motorbike.

My tail goes to hurting too.

Back in maesai I turn in the motorbike, shave, brush my teeth, check email, and then take 10,000 baht of the 25,000 to packett to repay the 20,000 loan that I had with him.  He is good to me but likes no bull.  The clutch must be replaced and starter, steering joints, brake line, welding and a few bolts.

Now I head to Chiangmai to get passporty insert.  Then must be back tomorrow night and pay the 15,000 baht Wed.  Then I must get another 15,000 for the Burma trip.  But I have to go there too.  I paid 2,000 to Ah Chooh for whatever she wants to buy.

I have to go to Burma to find a wife for a friend. 

A friend of his wife, her father wants her to go to Japan to sell her self for three years so he won't have to work.

We interupted it.



The first fish had fattened .  I ate of the salted and barbecued, they  had oil and flavor, tiny ones only, delicious when you felt especially like something salty.

I took them to the mountains often for the families.  You had to pick them carefully, they weren't all the same.  Some were very wet, the bags full of water drippings, others were dry, and it was the latter one wanted. 


First Fish


Cloth Problem

I was in a real fix.  I ordered the cloth and then the money dropped way off.  Should have taught me a lesson about business.  The man was really pissed off naturally at how long it took me to pay for it.  I had at least one other account like this too, a lousy way to do business.  Ambition. 


Fine Tuning

My work remained select in the not many besides the Akha whom I worked with understood it.

This didn't discourage me, I knew that with time my work woud grow in effectiveness as I aquired the resources I needed and improved contacts.

There were actually only a few things I neede in order to have a substantial presence.  Often it was the established presence that caused people to give further.

There was the potential that I might win some fish tank funds from the EU.  If I did so that would mean a lot more tanks, a pump, piping and lots of fish.



Sometimes money just stopped.  For very long periods of time.  And then all the bills would go unpaid and often two or three months people were sure I was intentionally trying to cheat them.  Wasn't fun for me.  I tried to keep my "exposure" to a minimum but still I had some. 


22 Feb 2000

Cycles of Work on Project

My  work with the Akha often went in cycles. Sometimes there was lots of mone and it prgressed very well.  Other times I both ran out of money and rached a planning  plateau for my next mve.  Usually the next move was regarding funding of the next phase.  Or it was finding a newxt level of drive  after having reached some success.

Whith so many details to the project mental organization was a major issue.  And keeping organized as to how to support the work was truely important.  So there were really two tracks occuring, the first all the in field details, needs in this and that village, a major broblem looming and so forth, some villae to visit. 

And track two was how to finance it all.

Also on track one, as one got to know more informatin about the Akha sitaution one needed to constantly recalibrate goals such that the needs of more and more were met.

This takes much meditation.

On occasion, times like these, I might stop in and have breakfast at the Maesai Top North hotel, go to the bridge, or som such, wander my thoughts in a decidely unfocused way.  Occasionally a chiang Mai trip was in order.





Managing Vollunteers

Also the difficulty of donors and funding.




Insert Books


Books or....

Akha Books

Now I load Akha Books on the internet for other people to see and read.

So much book work to do, computer time.

A word handbook, an Alphabet book, a reader, a journal.

This is the most successful part of the work in some ways.  Cause once you start keying it in the hard part of compiling it is done.

While a few books get produced I get further and further behind.  I need to print so many of the existing books.

I am also working on my other writing to put it on the net but all the Akha work comes first and there is a lot of that to do.

                An Akha Journal, in addition to the e-mail journal is a reality, I only struggle to get it all up to speed and on a more regular basis.


After Ten Years

After some ten years, I understood what I was going to get done, didn't bother much with the doubters, and knew very well that there would be many obstacles. I just kept going on. Day in, day out, ranging over a vast number of villages and problems, from dealing with the army, missions, forestry, medical people, and the very different personalities of each and every Akha and Akha village.  The scoffers died, left, quit, grew silent.  The missionaries ran out of time and went home.  My job went on.  The Akha came to know that slowly I cycled through the villages.  I fixed what I could, and moved the book publishing incrementally step by step forward.

My satisfaction is that I now understood much of the problems and what caused them.  I understood what would have to be done to make repairs in some cases and try and give the Akha better choices to best determine for themselves how they would go.  Often just the little nudge or encouragement was enough to get a new event going, a new round of courage on the part of a village. I was often disappointed that I could not do more for these people so often living on a string, constantly afraid of being forced to move as they had felt for at least fifty years now if not longer.

They accepted that I was mostly broke though some of the projects sometimes did amazingly lurch forward an unexpected distance.

What was most frustrating for me was that I could not explain what I would do if I could only lay my hands on more money with which to do it.  And so for the most part I kept my dreams to myself.  It did not do well to talk of them only to see years go by without them materializing.

In the end, though I suppose it has been worth it, agonizingly slow in making progress, certainly I saved the lives of a few people, held off the destruction of certain villages, and sowed some seeds of hope where there hadn't been many.  But I would never know if it had been worth the years and years of my life I had given to it, mostly misunderstood by spectators and those I desired to help.

After many years, some of the Akha understood what I was trying to do, because surely they had not seen anyone try at it so long.  They even commented, that they themselves would never have stuck to such goals for so long, as good as they were.

It was the hope of accomplishing a number of small projects that I set out to do, that seemed so close, that carried me on.  In reality even those projects, and ones they brought with them, carried on for years.

I hoped to use whatever I knew from the western world to assist the Akha during rapid changes in economics and the social structure.

I hoped to save knowledge. So that knowledge can be shared and passed on to kids who got cut off from their own culture.  In that I hope to record as much as possible from the elderly.

I hope that the Akha can take all that they are which is unique and valuable and good and use it to increase their chances for survival.






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