Something that I have been following for a while is the “First World Pains” twitter account and I hate to admit that, usually, the posts are dead on to how the Western thought process works. I have been blessed with a lot of “stuff” (computers, instruments, books, eBooks, etc.) and sometimes I let my perspective get out of line. I’ve been worrying lately about my iPhone since I have had it for a year and a half. I have treated that thing like gold and, fortunately, it is still working. I don’t want to buy another here because you pay full price and there are no contracts or discounts, and sometimes my “home” button doesn’t respond! The greatest of tragedies!
Recently, I thoughtlessly paid the wrong price for a ticket on the Bangkok skytrain and when pushed the card into the slot I lunged at the gates because sometimes they are fast moving and you can easily get caught up in them. It is always funny to watch people when the gates surprise them, but then it happens to you and it isn’t really that funny. I paid the wrong fare and when I lunged at the gate that didn’t open I folded over and almost rolled over the gate entirely. I am sure that everyone around thought that I was just another tourist that couldn’t figure it out. Unfortunately, when the gate caught me, my Kindle was between my body and the pathway through the gates. When I was folded over the swinging arms, my Kindle sustained a blunt force trauma to the screen and, as I discovered later, became out-of commission. I just about let this ruin my night. The same day, the sweet lady at the Baptist Student Center, where I have mentioned being heavily involved before, went out of her way to get ingredients for one of my favorite foods here in Thailand (Pork and bitter beans stir-fried in curry). She had put aside a portion and covered it so she could sell it only to me. My spirits were lifted.
The unfortunate side of these stories is not that I lost a Kindle (I have learned that Amazon is usually pretty generous about replacing them even when it isn’t just a malfunction) or that my iPhone may someday stop working and I will be “cut-off” from the “civilized” world since my smart phone no longer works. The problem is the fact that I have let myself worry about these things that I don’t really even NEED. Sure Kindles make reading books easier when you live in “the third-world,” and my iPhone keeps me constantly connected to e-mails and even allows me to call or text my other friends with iPhones in the states for free, but what about the billions who live daily without these things. I am privileged beyond explanation. These thoughts are coming from an introduction to a man tonight who I was able to learn a little from.
Suriyo is a Myanmarese (or Burmese, if you prefer) man who moved to Bangkok at the urging of his father to gain experience and improve his English speaking ability so he can bring them back to his family in Myanmar. He is not a refugee. He is a migrant worker. He began to tell me a bit of how he works as a hotel security guard in one of the more prominent districts in Bangkok. Suriyo works 7 AM – 7 PM seven days a week and is given 3 days off every month. That is an 84 hour work week. He used his day off today to come to the BSC and practice his English which was already better than I expected it to be. The hotel is supposedly working on his legality in the country and planning on providing him with a Thai identification that will allow him to freely travel back and forth between Myanmar and Thailand without problem. This man is eager to learn and he is working has hands to the bone at the same time. He could carry on a pretty advanced conversation with me with only a few hang-ups and I asked him how he had acquired such advanced English since 3 months ago he left Myanmar for the first time in his life. He told me about how he learned basic English grammatical structure in school and has been carrying around a Myanmarese-English dictionary for a year and memorizing vocabulary. This man is obviously dedicated.
Because Suriyo works such long hours, I agreed to get in contact with him and meet him after he gets off at 7 o’clock and we would work on conversation. Our new team space is only two skytrain stops from where he lives. Everything is lined up perfectly and I don’t have to tell you why. He is a man that is hungry for knowledge and I told him that I used the Bible stories for English comprehension and he was very open to that, despite his Buddhist background. I am thankful for opportunities to meet men like Suriyo who always put my thoughts back in the right directions when it comes to want and needs. I pray that we can learn from each other and I can have an influence in his life for him to take back to his family in Myanamar. He comes from the Tai Yai (or Shan) people group in northeast Myanmar. This is why I love my job. I have been given an opportunity to influence a man who will be going back to his family hundreds of miles away in a completely different country. I pray our time together is lucrative when it comes to matters of the spirit.
The reminder that Suriyo gave me is of the Nepali migrant workers that I once worked with while living in Penang, Malaysia. These men were often offered contracts to come and work and make money to send home to their families and on arrival would have all of their legal documents stolen and then were assigned jobs. They basically became slaves who earned enough money to support themselves on a day-to-day basis. I pray that this isn’t the case with Suriyo and that he does get his identification card. He was the kind of guy that you want to give everything you have in your pockets to. He was so positive and thankful for the opportunities he has and completely overlooks how overworked and (most-likely) underpaid he is. It is always a gut-check when someone comes along that puts your thinking back into perspective. I am thankful that I met Suriyo today.