Today, my friend Maung Maung Tinn (who I wrote about in this post) took myself and 3 med students from New Zealand on a little tour. Starting at the clinic, we jumped in a truck full of HIV positive patients who were being taken to a monastery for the day. This was a monthly trip that the clinic run but due to the large number of HIV patients and the limited number that can be taken, a different group goes each month. I suppose this acts as a sort of support group. Having never really been to a Buddhist monastery before I was quite keen to sit quietly at the back and see what went on but rather embarrassingly I was called to front by the head monk and made a bit of a fuss of. An ex-nurse taught me some meditation techniques that I never got to put into practice as Manug Maung Tinn was keen to get moving.
Our next stop was the rubbish tip. And in this dump there were well over 100 (I forget the exact number - I think it was around 300) Burmese people living there. A sort of village had been formed out of the rubble.
It felt strange wandering around, my feet covered in wet rubbish-tip mud (it was raining, which is probably why the smell wasn't too bad) with fly's buzzing all around. I felt horribly rich and touristy with my camera out taking pictures of the place. The New Zealand girls had brought sweets and crisps with them for the kids which was really appreciated and as we left a couple of kids came running out of their houses, desperate not to miss out. These people live in the most ridiculous poverty but that is what the situation in Burma has driven them too. They would rather live in a rubbish dump than be back at home.
Next to the tip was a school for the children who lived there. Even though it was a Sunday, it was thriving. The band from the US who played at the clinic for Aung San Suu Kyi's Birthday had brought their acoustic guitars to the school to play some songs. Now I'm a bit of a music snob and I thought these guys were pretty cringey when I first saw them in one of the bars in town, but what they're doing is actually pretty sweet. To the kids, these guys are rock stars. The atmosphere was exciting and there were arts and crafts and all sorts going on. Another one of the 91 migrant schools (of which 89 are illegal) had visited to join the fun and not too long after we arrived the band jumped into their van to play to a new bunch of kids somewhere else near Mae Sot.