The Warlord’s Hospital and Other Stories–a memoir from Jim Mielke

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2004

“The Warlord’s Hospital and Other Stories is a compelling memoir of personal growth and fulfilment through international living, professional development and world service, and is available for immediate release on Amazon’s e-book marketplace.

This exhilarating tale presents vivid descriptions of exotic far-off lands, unique and meaningful international work experiences, the growth of goals and aspirations, and a rare mix of people along the way. Packed with pithy narratives of overseas adventures, the thrills, humor, and heartaches, some romance, and stunningly beautiful natural scenes – these stories give some glimpses into an evolving insight of a young man moving through the seasons of his life.

 Student housing for my Public Health (MPH) summer research project in Alaska, USA (Photo by Jeff Schultz)

Many young people are eager for an overseas experience, and are searching for direction, but for various reasons, never get there. In a world of increasing global interdependence, the lasting benefits of international travel and cross-cultural service experiences are truly priceless. 

Jim first learned about YMCA overseas volunteer opportunities when he was a college student working a summer job at Silver Bay YMCA on Lake George, New York. After graduating in 1982, he was soon off to Sri Lanka for a six-week internship with the Colombo YMCA, where he led outdoor recreation and life skills programs for disadvantaged youth. He ended up staying for six months.

After Sri Lanka, and his subsequent postings with the YMCAs in Western Samoa and Fiji Islands, Jim was hooked on the thrill of international living. For the next eight years, he worked with voluntary organizations in developing countries throughout the Asia-Pacific region.

Jim with Lucy, my multi-lingual translator in an Akha hilltribe village, Chiang Rai Province, ThailandJuly 1988

In Book Two, the stories continue in the remote, lawless mountains along the Thai/Burma border where Jim is running a small, isolated hospital without electricity or running water. The hospital had been built by an opium warlord for his breakaway revolutionary army, and was staffed with undocumented workers from nine ethnic groups, each speaking a different language.

Medicines and patients sometimes had to be transported by horseback to and from the nearest town and referral hospital when the one and only road washed away during the rainy season. Lying low at the hospital, the staff would take cover when the local drug warlords flung mortars at each other in their fight over the narcotics trafficking route that ran through our village. 

From the wild and rugged northern frontier, the reader is transported to Bangkok, Thailand’s glitzy modern capital city, for a very different flavor of ‘the expat lifestyle.’  Jim is based there to manage NGO services for Khmer refugees living in camps along the Thai/Cambodian border.

Eventually, Jim returns to Hawaii to pursue his graduate studies in Public Health, which include research in the far-flung Native communities throughout Alaska, HIV/AIDS research among street children in Bangkok’s largest slum, and finally to northern Thailand to investigate an epidemic of child abandonment in the midst of one of the most severe HIV/AIDS epidemics in Asia. 

That was about 25 years ago, and the lure of continued fun, adventure, personal growth, and meaningful work as a humanitarian aid worker has taken Jim to over 20 developing countries throughout the Asia-Pacific region. Except for six years of graduate studies in Hawaii, where he completed Master’s and Doctoral degrees in Public Health, he has been overseas ever since.

 Transporting passengers down the mountain in the Thoed Thai Hospital truck, Chiang Rai Province, Thailand, June 1988

“The Warlord’s Hospital and Other Stories” is the second book in the “Adventures in International Living” series. Drawing on over 45 years of personal journal entries, the series chronicles some of his experiences living and working in developing countries throughout the Asia-Pacific region, as well as low-cost adventure travel to exotic destinations on every continent except Antarctica.

10% of proceeds from book purchases will be donated to charitable organizations in the developing world.

THIS BOOK IS IMPORTANT BECAUSE:

It will stoke the fires of adventure, especially among young people – It will inspire and encourage those seeking something beyond their national borders, beyond the mainstream tourist destinations, superficial material lifestyles and empty career paths. The discovery early in life of the deeper meaning and potential derived from international and cross-cultural perspectives might even save 30 years of meaningless work later. 

It will resonate with anyone who has desired to travel and live overseas – the stories demonstrate how anyone can experience genuine fulfillment and self-discovery through different, freer ways of living, no matter what your budget.

It reveals that you grow when you give back – Giving back to the world in return for all that has been given, and expanding one’s horizons through travel, leads to immense personal growth.

It demonstrates perseverance with a positive mindset – After years of suffering with Inflammatory Bowel Disease, receiving an ileostomy was the best thing that happened to Jim. It gave him back his health, his freedom – and 45 years on, life keeps getting better all the time.  This story encourages readers to be accepting, flexible and to learn to roll with the flow. Bumped off the track? The next adventure is about to begin! Find the silver lining that transforms negatives into positives, and new doors open.

James Cameron Mielke

About the Author

James Cameron Mielke (Jim) is originally from Buffalo, New York, and grew up as a pastor’s son. At age 19 he was fitted with an external pouch, following years of pain, depression and suffering with Crohn’s disease. The pain and misery were gone. Almost immediately after receiving the ‘bag,’ he felt strong and exhilarated and was catapulted into a whole new energized life. For the first time in years, he was free to enjoy all that life offers and that freedom continues now, 45 years later. 

Over the years, Jim has spoken to college students, members of voluntary organizations and other interested groups about world service work and other options for international experiences – just as someone spoke to him 45 years ago, when he was a summer employee at the YMCA. 

Jim has lived and worked in over 20 countries of the Asia-Pacific region. In that time, he completed his Master’s and Doctoral degrees in Public Health at the University of Hawaii. This was funded by a State of Hawaii academic award and a US Government grant administered by the East-West Center research institute in Honolulu, whose mission is to “promote better relations and understanding among the people and nations of the United States, Asia, and the Pacific through cooperative study, research, and dialogue.”

Jim Mielke is an experienced expat, and also enjoys adventure travel. He has been to more than 60 countries in Asia, Africa, Europe, North and South America and the Pacific. Jim currently works as an international health and development consultant for various humanitarian aid agencies. He is also an internationally certified classical yoga and meditation teacher and teaches both as a seasonal volunteer at YMCAs in the USA and abroad.  Having survived these adventures, Jim still travels, and lives in a peaceful seaside setting on Phuket island in southern Thailand.

THOUGHTS ON “The Warlord’s Hospital and Other Stories”


“Jim’s memoir clearly illustrates the power of the human spirit. The book is a rich mixture of travel, adventure, personal growth and cultural exchange. In a tumultuous era this is a guidebook to the soul. The author compels us not only to “know ourselves” in a spiritual way but to make friends and have some fun in the process. Jim is both a practical guy who rolls with life’s punches while remaining an inveterate optimist. It’s a must read for anyone with an interest in Southeast Asia and the Pacific.”
Rob Kay, Lonely Planet author, creator of FijiGuide.com and recipient of Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Award

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