The endurance and physical strength of the Karen women living in small mountain villages is truly amazing. I was in a small farming village a few weeks ago and snapped these photos as I watched the all women work crew, (see above) tend to the task of mending fences. I assumed it was to keep the roaming pigs, cows, and occasional water buffalo out of the fields. Karen animals live off the land and are unconcerned with foolish details such as eating a cash crop that the villagers have toiled over for weeks. Hence, the reason for the fence duty or so I thought. As they worked I wondered how they managed in the brutal heat of the day.

villages-AfternoonHeat-websize

No diet or work-out decisions for them. They had it all sunshine, camaraderie, and, they didn’t even have to pay extra for the sauna facilities, it came with the package! By mid-day it must have been 40 degrees centigrade. I was relieved when I saw the women head in for a rest walking towards the home I was staying at which belonged to one of the women in the work crew.  It was also the home closest to the land they were working on.

They greeted me with a chorus of “thako ah” (are you hot). I couldn’t believe they were asking me the question; the only muscle I had moved in the last hour was to push the shutter button. Without fuss or bother they settled in to eat. I would have come in completely glazed over from the heat, deer in the headlights sort of thing. Of course that’s assuming I made it back at all. I figured they were finished for the day, surely they wouldn’t work in the afternoon heat. Once again I was wrong.

Tending to a child

Watered and fed, the women headed back out. Much to my shock they lit a series of small grass fires to burn off the dead leaves, twigs, and branches that had accumulated on the land. I was surprised by the fire but even more I was shocked that they would endure what I deemed brutal, self-inflicted insanity.

Back out to the heat

Back out to the heat

What could it possibly have to do with keeping animals out? Why did they feel compelled to do this work? That’s when I found out. The women were cleaning up the land in front of the Catholic Church. Did I forget to mention the church at the top of the hill from where they were working?

My friend Boowa explained that there were some important people from Bangkok coming to the church the following Sunday. They would be visiting many places in his area. He insisted that I return to take part of this exceptional happening.

As I watched all of this I wondered what “the important church people from Bangkok” would think if they saw the lunacy of what the women were doing in preparation for their esteemed arrival.

Faith is an interesting topic. I did not attend the event.

View from the hilltop

View from the hilltop