I watched rather helplessly as the blood and puss dripped from the boy’s neck, swirling together into a perfect mixture of gruesome bodily fluids in the pan below.  The doctor watched carefully, overseeing the medic gently push on what was left of the cyst, bulging out just above the child’s shoulder.  At one point, the kid started to seize, apparently a reaction to the anesthetic.  Not ideal when you’re draining a puss-filled growth by means of a precise scalpel to the neck.  They got it under control and continued on.

I was deep in the jungles of Burma, a few days hike into the conflict area that has seen so much suffering over the last seventy years.  I was a guest among the Karen people (pronounced “kuh-ren”), who live in small villages scattered throughout an immense jungle.

In World War II, the Burmese government sided with the Japanese, and the smaller states surrounding the central power sided with the British, including the Karen.  The war ended, but the central government was still in charge.  Civil war has since raged on, largely overlooked by the international community.  Being the longest civil war in history, it’s little more than business as usual for the rest of the world.

I grew up overseas–my parents are missionary aid workers and we lived in several parts of Pakistan for nine years, Thailand for five.  During that time, we often traveled to nearby countries and I was lucky to experience a large variety of people and cultures in my childhood.  As an adult I have lived in rural Arkansas, Fort Benning, liberal San Francisco and whatever words you would use to describe Tampa, Florida.