Good-Bye Myanmar

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On Saturday, I left Myanmar – for now. It was a sad moment – Green Island School and Khaing Zar’s family have become very dear to me, and there were a few tears – in the next days, I will post a long entry about the school, with many pictures.

On Friday, my last school day, there was a misunderstanding between Khaing Zar and myself – I had expected she would mention to young and older kids that it was my last day, providing an opportunity to say good-bye, and I’d been looking forward for the last two weeks to dance Gangnam Style one last time (it’s fantastic to teach kids English verbs of movement!). She though didn’t do that – to avoid tears from the young kids, from experience. Of course we hadn’t spoken about expectation and experience beforehand, and as happens with a lack in communication, there was disappointment on my side and a guilty conscience on her’s.

To make up for it, we loaded all Green Island School kids we found running around on the street into the school bus, and drove off to celebrate my leaving in the local milk bar. On the way back, the large speakers on the open school bus boomed out Gangnam Style, we loudly sang along, and dragged a group of dancing, singing, laughing kids behind us. My iphone gave up, but also without pictures I’ll never forget that moment.

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I lived in a poor part of Yangon, where Western tourists rarely come. Whereever I went, I was stared at. It is unbelievable what joy one can give with a simple smile or „Hello“ – the heartwarming smiles I got in return, the kids who literally jumped up and down with joy and shouted Hello over and over back, the people who stopped to shake my hand or try out their little English – unforgettable. I hope that it will stay that way, but really know that it will change over the years – but at least I still saw the beginnings.

Street in Northokkalapa, suburb of Yangon

Street in Northokkalapa, suburb of Yangon

Every morning I was woken up by the family’s prayers between 4 and 5 o’clock – my room was next to the house altar, and in Myanmar, prayers are sung very loudly. It has something very calming, mostly I fell asleep again, and even if not, the prayers and songs are so beautiful that I didn’t mind, even at that hour. One is nearly always surrounded by music in Myanmar – be it prayers or unbelievably loud pop music booming from huge loudspeakers being driven on open lorries through the narrow alleyways.
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Remarkable also the dedication ceremony for the buddha statue being donated to a nearby monastery by the family. First, monks came to the house early in the morning, to pray and receive money. Then friends of the family came, for a breakfast of Dal (lentils with rice) and ice cream. The buddha statue was transported to the monastery, where in the evening 20 monks came for a good dinner and many hours of prayer, I expect for the good of the family. I experienced this and other events as a deaf mute – unless Khaing Zar was near, there was only little talk possible with local people. I was mainly an observer, which can be quite refreshing, removing the need for small talk.
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For the last three months, I’ve lived in quite poor countries, and am developing a changed perspective in terms of price levels. I’d forgotten to pre-book my excess baggage with Air Asia, Asia’s cheap airline. I wasn’t worried, as I’d seen the prices on the internet, and thought I would pay the ca. 30 Dollars from my last remaining Myanmar money when dropping off my baggage. I was completely shocked when they then quoted a price of 144 Dollars for my 8 kilo excess baggage. Now you need to know that 144 Dollars equals two months’s pay for a new teacher, just to put it into perspective. I don’t mind donating that sort of money to the poor, but to throw it into the maws of a greedy carrier – I was seriously upset. I managed to negotiate it down to ca. 100 Dollars, but was still upset when afterwards exchanging the thus remaining Myanmar money into Dollars where unbelievably I received nearly twice the amount the money was worth – lose some, win some, it seems (and no, I didn’t tell the guy). By the time I got to the gate, I’d calculated that, instead of paying 100 USD, I’d actually saved 50 Dollars overall – last time I flew Air Asia, they hadn’t charged me for 3 kilos excess (saved 48 Dollars), the little buddha bracelet I’d wanted to buy was sold out (saved 5 Dollars), 38 Dollars exchange „gain“, 40 Dollars discount for excess, 30 Dollars it would have cost anyhow – there you go. I celebrated by buying myself a cheese sandwich, threw money into a donation box, and cheerfully left Myanmar, onwards to my next destination – Nepal.

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2 responses to “Good-Bye Myanmar

  1. Thank you. I love Myanmar, the country is beautiful, and the people are great. Living with a family was an awesome experience, and the kids are seriously cute. I really felt very sad to leave, but I am also much looking forward to my time in Nepal, and I find that I really like Kathmandu. Happy to be home again?

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