Here's a pair of group photos taken at the water festival in Rensselaer the other week. You can see happy Karen and other Burmese people hanging out and enjoying themselves during this holiday.
HEY PETE, WHY SO FEW PHOTOS ON THIS BLOG ANYWAY?
My friend, Michael Turton, runs a great blog about life and particularly politics in Taiwan where lives. (Readers may recall that I've lived four years of my life in Taiwan, although not in one block.) Although American, Michael Turton lives in Taiwan where he raises a family, studies for a Ph.D. and teaches English at a college. Quite frankly, I think his blog, http://www.michaelturton.com/ is much better than mine, although, of course, the focus of his blog is entirely different from mine.
In fact, should anyone care, you can actually see a photo of me on his blog here. If you realize that this was my home environment for four years, plus the focus of my academic study for an equal number of years then perhaps it will also begin to make sense as to why I enjoy spending a major chunk of my free time these days hanging around with misplaced Burmese and such, shooting the breeze, eating their food and helping them out with such things as driving lessons, English lessons and trying to make sense of endless hassles involving arcane government documents that are in a language that they cannot understand and based on principles and assumptions that are foreign to them. And, of course, each time I do, I also remember just how confusing things in Taiwan were, little things like taking out the trash in a country that has an entirely different garbage collection system and calling a plumber or a locksmith in a country where the phone book is written using an ideographic writing system with over 5000 unique symbols and they answer the phone in a tonal non-Western language.
But when I compare my blog and Michael's one thing I realize is I need more pictures.
On the other hand, lately I've been writing about refugee issues. And as long-time readers know, I began doing this because of two things. First, I used to work as the furniture director at the local refugee center. An employee of another refugee center asked me for advice on how to run a furniture program. I agreed to offer such advice. About the same time, the local paper ran an article on how the local refugee center was unable to meet its obligations. See here. Interesting comments can be seen here.
When I read this I flipped out because, quite frankly, the local refugee center was the worst run place I have ever worked in my entire life. They were so incompetent they could not even evaluate suggestions on how to fix things. (And, for those interested, I once worked at a legally bankrupt ambulance service where one of our major restocking of supply sources was to steal from the hospital emergency rooms when they weren't looking. Sigh. Brings back fond memories. Particularly the time the nurse caught us stealing and made us put half of what we took back.) I had known this, of course, for a while but had hoped that they'd find a way to turn things around if given time. Instead they announced they were both "maxed out" and accepting new people. This is not a sensible formula for improvement.
So I began writing about exactly what it was like to work in this crazy place and what I learned from it. (And, yes, I know it is often overly ranty. Apologies.)
Which means that I decided that it might be best to leave out photos of refugees served by the center, people who I consider my friends, if I am criticizing the agency that controls their applications for such things as green cards and jobs and public assistance. So, for that reason, there are few photos of actual people on this blog. but I decided a couple of group photos of people I know and their friends, couldn't hurt. (One funny thing about the refugees from Burma, if you ask if you can take their picture their first reaction is to call everyone around them to get in the picture too. Sigh. Asian collectivist cultures in action again.) I wish I could put more but it just doesn't seem like a good idea.
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