Thursday, March 8, 2012

Karen Hill-tribe in Maesa

October 31st, 2007

Between the elephants and monkeys, my driver brought me to a nearby hill-tribe, where some Karen long-necks were.

As much as my curiosity enjoys visiting hill-tribes, the touristy aspect of it never sits well with me, in that their lives seem to have been turned into tourist attractions. Even though I'm usually drawn to photographing the children, I also wonder how they feel about being human attractions, or if it's just Western P.C. rubbing off on me.

On this visit, I was glad to see most of the children playing games and study Thai language in their books. Except for a couple of shy faces, they were mostly all smiles and giggles.

When I was young, I remember hearing how terrible the long-neck tradition was because if the woman was unfaithful, her husband would remove her rings and her neck would flop over and she would suffocate. This is actually a myth. Their necks aren't actually stretched at all, but their collarbones and rib cages get weighed down. Every couple of years, the rings are removed to be replaced, and their necks do not flop over. There are some discomforts and the skin becomes tinted blueish-green from the wire, but nothing deadly. A more likely reason for the rings is that it protected them from being bitten by tigers, though it could be a symbolic protection.

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