Wednesday March 11, 2009

As Judy listened to conversation in Thai amongst the visiting Bible school students she could understand almost none, but she did understand one to say that he is of the Karen tribal group, and his home is a small village in the mountains of Mae Hong Son province, north and west of Chiang Mai, many hundreds of miles from Samut Songkhram where we are and where the students are visiting. She also understood him to say that in this little village is a family with ten children. This rang a bell with her in that she recalled that our dear friend and sister in Christ, Wa, in Chiang Mai hails from a small Karen village in the Mae Hong Son mountains and that she is the tenth child in a family of ten. So we gave him her number and asked him to phone her to see if they have any common background. Bingo! They are first cousins from the same village. Another page eligible for addition to the “it’s a small world� book.

Thursday March 12, 2009

Today we passed through the marvelous labyrinthine Maekhlong town fresh fish, meat, and produce market. The mkt serves the entire province with hundreds of vendors. We walk through it almost daily, sometimes many times a day. In passing we noticed two Indian men, one each in separate parts of the market, appearing to deal as customers with vendors. We have seen these men a few times before, and they always seem strangely out of place. One of them has appeared innocuous, but the other has the most evil gaze I’ve ever personally encountered, and reminds me of book descriptions of some of Satan’s minions with whom Amy Carmichael and similar brethren have dealt. We have wondered if they might be moneylenders, usurers, a plague rampant in India. Today we saw the hand-to-hand money exchanges and notes being scribbled in little notebooks that confirmed our suspicions. We openly watched, even stared, at one as he transacted business, so that he would be aware of being watched, to see what response that would evoke. Sure enough, when finished with the transaction he approached us, asking if how he could help us. Interpret that to mean that he wanted to know why we were spying on his business. We chatted a moment and then asked what work he did in this market, and he said he was a purveyor of electrical appliances, such as fans, to market vendors. Given all the circumstantial details with which I will not bore you, there is no chance he’s vending fans or any such thing. I then asked if he were lending money which he denied. Little question in our minds that he lied. Usury is probably illegal here. While we were talking with him a woman walked up, handed him a small bag of what Judy says was almost certainly jewelry, in return for money. Security for a loan. In India it’s common to borrow from usurers $100 today and have to repay $125 tomorrow, secured by your family jewels worth $1,000 and which constitute the entire wealth of the family, because personal credit on conventional basis for the poor is impossible to obtain. Lack of credit for the poor is also the case here. Heavenly Father, please send a godly Christian who will be awarded the Heavenly Prize to start a community based micro loan scheme ala that of Mohammed Yunus of Bangladesh who was awarded the Nobel Prize, and break the back of these grossly evil men who through their rapacity are enslaving their wretched “clients� to endless backbreaking interest.

Friday 13 Mar

Spreading nasty red hot inflamed band on my ankle looks like burst vessels caused by daily swelling due to heat, humidity, and walking. I take a diuretic to combat the swelling, but the burst vessels problem was probably also exacerbated by ill-advised leap from too great height when boarding a river vessel. Went to a recommended doctor (M.D.) today. He spoke the tiniest amount of English, so after a most difficult diagnosis discussion he sent me away with some ointment, no idea what it is, probably hydrocortisone. Total charge for both the doctor consultation and the medicine…Baht 40. $1.25. No misprint. $1.25. U.S. healthcare overhaul, anyone?

Saturday 14 Mar 2009

Chatted with Sae-ree, a market vendor with whom we’re relatively close. He confirmed our suspicions about the two Indians. They are usurers. Sae-ree himself has avoided their snare. They live in Bangkok and come here daily to lend and collect. Interest is 20% PER DAY! Borrow $1,000 today, and you pay $200 interest tomorrow and every day thereafter. That’s just the interest. You also owe the principal. So, for example, after five days, to escape their clutches, you’d have paid $2,000 to redeem your $1,000 loan. Poor unsophisticated undercapitalized Thais are eligible for small loans at the government savings bank @ 5% annual interest. But this institution is not rigorous about collecting loans, so borrowers easily avoid repaying borrowings, and just like in U.S. they often default, ruin their creditworthiness, and the usurers become their only recourse for critical daily capital needed to finance the inventory they sell at their market stalls in order to earn their daily bread. Vicious cycle.

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More photos should have been uploaded on day this email sent, so check the site.

Chuck & Judy Hazen
chuck_h@olypen.com
hazen@olypen.com