musings on music, travel, books, and life from Southeast Asia

I was lucky to be in Nyaungshwe in early June, which was when the third anniversary of the opening of the primary school in Tat Ein village was held. It was one of those totally unplanned things that ended up being one of the highlights of my trip. I wrote about this school in a separate post last week, so I won’t repeat much more today. Needless to say, getting this school built was a wonderful — and very worthwhile — project, and one that is appreciated very much by the villagers in Tat Ein.


Htein Linn and I pedaled our bikes from Nyaungshwe to the school that morning, a journey that takes about 30 minutes, arriving to see a big welcoming committee of villagers and students standing in front of the school. There was also a little band playing traditional Shan music. Twenty minutes later, the big guest of honor arrived, a Japanese woman known to the locals as “Ma Zabei,” who is one of the biggest donors to the school.

I enjoyed meeting Ma Zabei, as well as two other donors: Jun from Japan and Pong from Thailand (a Phuket native). Our lunch together ended up being quite the linguistic ping-pong match: I spoke with Ma Zabei in Burmese, she spoke with Jun in Japanese, I spoke with Jun in English, Pong spoke with Jun in Thai, and Pong spoke with me in Thai. Whew! Representatives from the local school board were also there for the ceremony, along with the teachers, monks students, and parents … and of course those mischievous but adorable little novice monks, who begged me to take more photos of them. As you can tell from these photos, it was quite a colorful event and I feel very fortunate that I was invited to attend.


I wasn’t told beforehand, but I ended up being a participant in the ceremony too. It was nothing dramatic or traumatizing; I was one of several people selected to give gifts to various students and teachers. It was actually a lot of fun, even if I did screw up the part where I’m supposed to bow to the senior monk before I start giving out gifts. But those monks appeared to got a kick out of the football that I brought for the novice monks, so I think all was forgiven.


I’m starting to feel attached to this little school, and I hope to ramp up my donation efforts the next time I visit. So many things they need, that it’s hard to know what to prioritize. But even a little bit goes a long way and is very much appreciated by the students and teachers.


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