When in Burma…

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Yesterday I attempted to get roti and Burmese tea from a place called Lucky Tea Shop in Mae Sot. I missed my mark by a few minutes as they stop serving roti at 10am, but I had some delicious Burmese sweet breads which also had the perfect touch of salt and were very soft. I also had tea that was super sweet thanks to the line of condensed milk at the bottom.

The warmth faded away the last of my fears from the night before. I decided to stay at Love & Care school just in case Monday repeated itself. And boy was that a serious decision. I slept on a wooden mat on the floor, and thank god for the mosquito net that nearly covered the entire room or I’d have been eaten by all the bugs inhabiting the room. I woke up groggy and tired and joined my fellow teachers in time for breakfast. Then came the real challenge: bathing.

In Burma people don’t bathe nude. Rather they bathe wearing large wrap skirts called “longyi” that are sewn from end to end making them like a giant circle of fabric. They are they wrapped and folded like a towel across the chest and worn while bathing. They bathe using buckets of water and a bar of soap and clean the body clothed! With a small audience of my students who thought my helplessness at bathing was funny–I managed to bathe and brush my teeth without embarrassing myself! Classes went well today also and I will be giving three exams before I leave next Wednesday. I get more connected and attached to my students every day.. Leaving is so difficult!

Last night I spoke with a teacher named Steve about his experiences growing up in Burma. He said that school fees are very high and even after completing school the job market is low so most families actually discourage their children from going to school. He said as the years went by, less and less information was available for students to learn. Where there was once some information about general Aung San and other Shan, Hmong, and Karen, etc leaders there is now nothing. Most of history focuses on British colonization and war with Japan. For which, it seems Japan is often villainized but the Burmese government never talks about any of their own flaws or pitfalls. He says he comes from a family of rice farmers, as are many Burmese people, but the government controls prices of rice even when the weather yields bad crops and they often lower the price making it very difficult to survive off this business. Another interesting thing is Burma’s relationship with china. Apparently they hate the Chinese government, and people I assume. Nonetheless Chinese are rumored to own nearly 40% of the businesses in Burma. And there’s a lot of controversy over the quality of goods as well. According to Thant Zin, some foods such as chili sauce are made with red dye meant for dyeing clothes. After eating with the sauce, the hands are stained red. Also the cooking oil from china is not considered trustworthy but there’s no real food and drug regulation in Burma. Or at least not at the same caliber as most other countries. Considering how bad a state the country is in, it makes sense why no one wants to live there. Even Myawaddy, a border city just across the river on the Burma side is flooded still though its counter city Mae Sot is cleared of water. Part of this is due to the difference in sea level but also part due to the lack of infrastructure to deal with natural disasters. The situation in Myawaddy is quite bad honestly, some people are on top of their houses to escape the water!

In other news my american friend just found out she has denguĂ© fever! Fortunately she went to the doctor and they diagnosed her early enough, I hope she feels better soon! So much going on, I’m just holding on for the ride.

9 day countdown…

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