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  • READING ENGLISH BY CANDLELIGHT


    The best part of a visit to Myanmar is meeting the people who live here. Despite plenty of reasons to be less than happy, (rampant poverty and a life under a totalitarian government, to name two), the folks we've met have been some of the happiest, friendliest anywhere. 

    On a bicycle ride through one of the local villages near Inle Lake, we met a man named U Paw San. He was walking with his nine-year old daughter along the shore. We said hello, he said hello. We were lost, as usual, so we asked U Paw where the dirt track we were on was headed. Luckily, he spoke some English. He gave us directions and then answered a few our inane questions about where to see birds, what time the sun sets, and if we were allowed to even be in his village.

    The next thing we knew, he invited us to his house to meet the rest of his family and to have tea. It may sound somewhat abrupt, strangers getting asked into someone's home, but this quick hospitality happens often here. You start up a conversation with a local, and in two minutes, you're holding their baby or giving them high fives or having tea at their house.  

    The most rewarding part for us came when his shy daughter finally started talking to us. Over hot tea, U Paw told us she was one of the top students in her English class at school, and she really wanted to practice. But she wasn't used to meeting strangers. 

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    By the second cup, and after much encouragement from her dad and mom, she brought her little backpack to a small table on the floor, pulled out her English workbook and started reading off a list of vegetables in English to Liz. There was no electricity in the house, which was built on wooden posts for flood protection, so we drank, read, and studied by candlelight. 

    After about two hours of reading and talking, she decided to show us everything in her backpack. In addition to papers and well-used school books, the most interesting thing she showed us was her pencil sharpener--a small straight razor, which she was quite adept at using, much to her dad's delight. It's hard to imagine seeing 20 nine-year olds in class all whittling pencils with razor blades at the same time. 

    Typical of Burmese hospitality, U Paw and family invited us to come back the next day. We couldn't say no, and we spent most of the day with them (more about that later), culminating in another candlelight English session over tea and rice cakes. As a bonus, the daughter taught us to count to 100 in Burmese. 


    After spending so much time with the family and meeting so many neighbors in the village, we took some photos of everyone and printed them out as a thank you for adopting us temporarily. 
    U Paw San's niece, face smeared with thanaka, came downstairs to read with us for a while. U Paw's parents and sister's family live upstairs in their two-room house. 

    Mom holding MoMo, their youngest, surrounded by five young neighborhood boys.
    Mom and son MoMo. They have four children total--three boys and a girl.
    Liz playing "swing me" with a new friend. 

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