As we took the winding, arduous, breathtaking trip to Nupo refugee camp, we had no idea what to expect. Two young women from a major Australian City embarking on an experience motivated by a desire to contribute to the global refugee plight, somehow.
Nupo, we very quickly found, was a place of many things: of community, of stories, of celebration, of sadness, many religions and ethnicities, amazing Burmese culinary delights and resilient vibrant people. Some of the stand out impressions were the hospitality and generosity of people at Nupo and the utter willingness and desire to learn. We were met by warmth, generosity, all sorts of jungle insects, and an established, resourceful and proud community of people. Not to mention, strikingly dressed in an array of coloured and patterned longyis, men and women alike.
Though the ESC school is humble in its facilities and resources, it is strong in history, culture and philosophy. We were given guidance yet autonomy in our lesson design. My favourite elements of teaching were marvelling at students articulate their attitudes to current social/global issues and then singing along to English pop songs.
Memorable moments include spontaneous trips to the waterfall to swim fully clothed and then all squash into a songtaw (the Thai name for a small truck converted into a small bus, usually overcrowded) to avoid the long windy road back to camp, sitting in humble homes learning to cook traditional Burmese food, the incredible smiling faces and almost un-containable excitement from little ones wherever we went, the weekly market and of course hours upon hours spent in tea shops sipping addictive Burmese tea and eating little delights. Teaching two lessons a day gave us structure but also time to experience and learn from the unique cultural experience we were immersed in. Do be warned though, if you go to Nupo, it will be hard to leave!
Trenna and Elizabeth