Enote 54 – Chris' Report

May 30, 2009

Maw Kwee Opening, Visa Crossing and Aung San Suu Kyi

ChrisLast weekend I visited the Maw Kwee School for their opening ceremony of the seventh year. The 7:20 songthau leaving Mae Sot was canceled due to problems with the truck, leaving me an hour late. When we finally left we were double packed with the usual assortment of the very young and old, Thai, Karen and Caucasian, and several roosters in a covered wicker basket crowing there displeasure the whole way. I met Hemely’s husband in Mae Salit and was rushed off to the ceremony where people were waiting for us to begin. It was a packed house with about 100 students and teachers on the left and a good showing from parents and school committee members on the right. It was good to see that all the teachers had returned from last year including Naw Ke Leh Moo Paw (now a mother of two that has taught at the school for 4 years) and Saw Shalle (the head teacher returning for his second year). It was also nice to see several of the Maw Kwee graduates who were to leave for their new school (NoBo) tomorrow. The front row was saved for dignitaries such as me, Saw Leh Taw (project supervisor), the boarding house director, a visiting pastor and Saw Kris (village headman). There were a couple of opening songs by the children and then we quickly got right to the important business of inspirational speeches. These got off to decent start but we were soon bogged down by the visiting pastor who had, apparently, many, many, inspirational words to proffer. Many of the younger children could be seen initially fighting to stay awake, then trying to nap discretely and ultimately sprawling all over each other, completely crumped out. It was a good time for another song. Later Saw Kris had some really nice comments about how the school had helped develop the community in many positive ways, particularly with the teamwork and spirit of working together. After the ceremony I had a meeting and lunch with the teachers, two school committee members and Saw Leh Taw. Most of the particulars for the new year had been worked out during the previous meetings (school closing last semester) but I did learn that the villagers were going to provide a salary for one additional teacher this year. Although this school has always had wonderful support from the villagers this is the first time they’ve taken it upon themselves to provide for a new teacher. Saw Kris had also instructed the community to start work on a new bridge across the river the next day. I hope they can get this done soon as they’ve had months of good bridge building weather, but it wont last long. Finishing up I shared a glass of rice whiskey with Corey Htoo (Tamla’s husband and one of dad’s closest refugee friends), played some guitar with him and Saw Shalle and headed back to Mae Sot on the songthau.

The next day I needed to cross the border to Myawaddy to extend my visa for another 3 months. I was hoping, but not that hopeful, that I would see some kind of show of support for Aung San Suu Kyi who is currently on trial inside Insein (pronounced pretty close to insane) prison. Myawaddy is a tightly controlled town just across the boarder from Mae Sot and Canadian Dave had told me earlier that even a small protest on the Thai side of the border had drawn Thai police taking close up photos of protesters because they hadn’t obtained the proper permit. When I got there, Myawaddy seemed unusually quiet with much less than the normal flow of trade and NGO worker traffic. I sat and joined some motorcycle taxi drivers chewing beetle nut and was able to strike up a conversation in Thai with a few of them. Everyone was noticeably avoiding any mention of “The Lady” or any reference to her trial. However, after about 10 minutes, I noticed at least four of these guys were holding up there cell phones (discretely) facing me. I tried to see what was on the face but couldn’t quite make it out. Soon after one of them got up and walked directly in front of me, holding the phone next to his stomach, so that I could see. On it was a down loaded image of General Aung San (father, a legitimate hero, and legal image to display). I smiled and nodded my approval at what was a clear show of support, no matter how small, for a woman who may very well be the people’s best hope for a better future.

Then I came home feeling somewhat melancholy.

Chris

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