Nicola wrote today about redemption and she said it was okay if I let you read too:
Mind-held Thai expressions tease my tongue. Each essay determinately engaging with the SE Asian sex trade…via SSU Travels the World
I have had a line ringing in my mind since our return, mingling with the leftovers of Asian dialects:
In the business of redemption.
What does it look like to be in the business of redemption?
I am reminded of: plant pots made from painted car tires in the Philippines; a Malay man’s obsession with mundane rocks allowing him to find a wealth of value in his collection of unique stones: singing boulders, growing gems, and petrified wood; in eating meat, Asians use the whole of the beast: even if this meant finding pig snout on my plate in the Philippines and chicken feet in a Malaysian curry; a dollar-store toy that we would scorn in the west has found new value in the hand of a Filipino girl, as does the scrap tin finding its place in the sea of huts within Manila or Bangkok.
In the business of redemption. what does it mean?
Perhaps it means finding value in imperfection- in another’s garbage, setting it free from judgement and compartmentalizing snobbery.
I loved Thailand; I could live in Chiang Mai. I would ride to work on an elephant and guide rafts on mountain rivers for a pitiful living, seeking wisdom from aged monks and taking a master’s in sustainable living or linguistics at CMU. However. I have a problem. I can’t get it through my head- you have to help me.
There are over 2 million prostitutes in Thailand; in Chiang Mai all of them are brought from destitute Burmese villages and trafficked through the village of Ma Sai on the border. I was in Ma Sai. I bought a pen. And a necklace. All Burmese teen girls traveling through Ma Sai leave without their virginity and thus their hope for a future and marriage, and almost half leave with an AIDS death sentence from their first few weeks in the industry.
What does redemption mean to a sex slave in Japan, in Bangkok, in Kuala Lumpur? If I see so much of what we call garbage being redeemed throughout Asia, isn’t there a way to redeem the consequences of societal chastity, idolatry, obligatory merit-making, hierarchical systems, and poverty?
In the business of Redemption.
Thai vocabulary, redemptive ideas, thoughts of the summer, and efforts to summarize my year at SSU swirl around my mind. I feel reminiscient of a Hogwarts student awaiting the next school year, or Arnold buckling his seatbelt in the Magic School Bus. I feel like all my life I have been taught to stand on a gymnasium line or sit quietly without being told why, and now my experience has set my mind free from dictated learning. Let me ask questions, don’t break life to me gently, let me dive in and let me experience both the joy and the pain of humanity. What will I learn next year?
I think redemption would be a good business to get into.