Wednesday, November 29, 2006

the karen take 2

i got up early to spend a day on a motorbike. there was a hole list of things to do/see around town and for $20 you really couldn't pass it up.
i got on the back of the bike at 9am, and for the very first time i was offered a helmet, i almost didn't know what to do with this lime green hard thing. oh for my head! so i had to unpile the dreads and plop it on. it was a sweet little half helmet with a dopey chin strap. my driver wore one too. we waved goodbye, i clutched onto the oh shit bar behind me and we veered through oncoming traffic.
about 5 mins later my driver, when we are safely out of town, while driving takes of his helmet and puts it in the basket in front. he doesn't speak much english but TURNS and says "no helmet no problem, okay?"
i'm like "yeah okay but maybe not while we're moving" he just shrugs and goes back to driving. really on this tour the only thing i wanted to see was the Karen people. i could care less about another cave, another waterfall, etc...but what else was i going to do, you know?
once at the refugee camp i had to pay more $$ to get in and leave all my passport info. these camps are odd. they are way out in the sticks, and protected by police, but they don't really exist. they're supposed to not supposed to exist. i don't really understand and no one seemed to be able to explain it to me.
i had also been strggeling with myself, should i go and do this? do i want to walk into a human zoo and throw money at the animals so they will pose for a picture. i really felt like a jerk my first half of the visit. i stuck to photographing the kids because it is easier. i would always ask, and they would gt this strange frozen look about them, no smiles. you can see in the one i took with the two little girls the one is smiling and pulling at my hair, that was really it. they have this photo look when you get close and that is what you get.
i had a jacket on because they day was cold, but i figured these people get stared at all the time, and usually so do i and i thought my tattoos would be an ice breaker. it was. the people have seen tattoos but not color tattoos and not on such white skin, oh yeah that was my in.
come to find out most of these women speak like 5 different languages. they don't go to school but they learn from all the tourists that roll through. the older woman i'm in the picture with asked me to come and sit with her and talk to her. so i asked her all about her life and the camp here and her life in burma. this woman is actually quit famouse and in all the postcards/photos of the long neck Karens. she had a daughter that passed away last month that was even more famouse and really breathtaking.
after talking to this woman i felt more copmfortable about being in the camp, and seeing the people. i really just wanted to go crazy photographing, but it was hard working with three camers and not being invasive. so really i didn't get as much as i wanted. my driver came looking for me i took so much time there.
i thought about going back the next day, going to another village. but when something is so magical i hate to try and replicate it. i don't want to taint the first experince by have a second that pales in comparison.
the rest of the day was enjoyable, but mostly for the ride itself. we zipped along a road as curly as a hair plucked off a poodles back. my helmet was off and the day had turned hot. we chugged up step hills in first gear, going so slow i thought we would have to get off and push.
we made it up to a dense jungle. the road was full of patches of sun and shadow. we were going so fast the world became a blur of high contrast, a constant stream of black and white zipping from one patch to the next. and the tempeture difference. it was like being plunged into an icy pool and then tossed into a furnace. over and over again. the jungle seemed alive with a bi-polar disposition that it was taking out on us. my sense's became so overwhelmed i couldn't tell direction or time or place. i wonder how my driver kept us on this continouse path that seemed to fold in on itself, rising and falling and rising again.
we took this road to some strange chinese settlements. i could have spit an hit myanmar from where i got off the bike. we took a rest, we looked at a still, reflective lake, we drank green tea and ate pad pak,we got back on and drove back to town.

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