Saturday, January 17, 2009


Today the manager of the NGO where Danielle teaches english (to the Thai workers), took us to see where they make lunches and uniforms for migrant schools around Mae Sot. The location was pretty secret and I wasn't allowed to take photos, but it is a legitimate NGO with logoed cars, so I am allowed to write about them. 
Inside the building is where Burmese and Thais sew the school uniforms on industrial sewing machines. The uniforms are perfectly made, with the collared shirts monogrammed with the initials of the school on one side and the name of the NGO on the other. Abacus had just fallen asleep a minute before we were to leave and after all our wanting her to sleep, she found herself awakened to be handed around the burmese sewers (people who sew, not sewers where ninja turtles live), but she seemed really happy. They also sew backpacks for the students, which are waterproofed to accommodate the rainy season. At this point it seemed like a good little operation, but then we saw the whiteboard. 
Written on the board were the names of the schools and then the amount of breakfasts, lunches and dinners required. For the 7 schools they provide for, there were over 1200 students, suddenly the operation seemed impossibly efficient. In one room of the kitchen, there were three giant rice cookers and sacks of rice stacked at the end of the room. In the next room were the pots, strainers and pestle and mortar, that looked as though giants used them. Outside were the gas cookers over which, cooked giant vats of curry. There was what looked like a silo that sat above a cooker, one of the chefs (there are 6 kitchen staff and six sewing staff), pulled a rope which hoisted up the 6 foot tall missile shaped casing, inside was where they inserted a shelf, which held 5 huge basins of rice, beneath it sat a vat of water which steams enough rice for 1200 hungry students. They'd also constructed a water purifying system, which meant they could provide all of the schools with clean drinking water. Out the back was a section of land where they were beginning to build houses to grow mushrooms, at the moment there were only the shelves on which the mushrooms would grow. We sampled some of the curry bubbling in the vat, breaking through the layer of oil on top to sample the broth beneath, it was filled with large bits of fish and vegetables and was almost restaurant quality, it would be poured into large bags, inside garbage cans and transported by vans to the schools around town. It was hard to believe how few people it took to feed 1200 people, 7 days a week. Eveything about the site was clean, the sewing room was meticulously organised as was the kitchen and the grounds outside. Everything was ingeniously designed and the staff seemed happy and relaxed, unlike restaurants where I've worked, trying to feed lunch to maybe 200 people max. 
I started working on a new website, for one of the migrant schools, I have to design something that has already been built, which is a bit limiting, and the design is quite restrained by the way in which its been built, but I'll see what I can do.
Tomorrow we go to Burma. We're not looking forward to it. It's just annoying and boring - sounds a little ironic I know. 

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