A couple hours ago I received a call from the older brother of one of my students here, who works for the Free Burma Rangers , asking if he could come and talk because he had a friend with him. As I was just about finished reading a book  and was in the middle of writing an entry that I have decided to write later tonight, if possible, I was slightly annoyed, but since I am a social person, I let him know where I was, and he brought with him a fellow Westerner who like me does mission work, and once I started talking with the fellow, who was quite fascinating in his own right, I was no longer annoyed at all.
As it happens, the fellow I talked with was a Californian, who had gone to school in Southern California, not far from where I went attended college. His school had a reputation for agriculture and engineering, two subjects I know a little bit about, but he studied photography. I asked him how he had decided to come over to Thailand to teach English (and do a lot of other odd jobs) with Karen refugees, and he mentioned that he had done photography work for his portfolio in college and then felt his work was not finished, so he came back when opportunities fell into place rather quickly. His experience was not so different than my own.
Our conversation went into fairly serious territory, as tends to happen when one talks with people who have lived over here and dealt with refugees and hill tribes peoples for any length of time. We talked about work ethic, about the difficulties that our students go through, the isolation of being a Westerner in a small village, and the fact that many people in Thailand falsely assume that all Americans are promiscuous because of what they see in the movies. We exchanged contact information, and talked about educational opportunities, and even had some moderately deep religious discussion as well about our approach to the Bible.
It is hard to explain just the level of honesty and openness one finds in such a situation as being a stranger in a strange land, who cheers the sight and conversation of like-minded people like a weary desert traveler cheers the sight of an oasis. If one has not experienced the isolation of feeling cut off from one’s homeland and family for long periods of time it is hard to convey the sort of temporary relief that one can find with the chance of a single personal conversation. The remoteness one feels here is not geographic (after all, I live pretty close to one of Thailand’s largest cities), but is more a sense of cultural isolation, the deep awareness that one does not belong, that one is a stranger and a pilgrim here, that brings to mind truths that escape the attention of many. So, today I felt the rare pleasure of having an unexpected guest.