On the dirt road that leads to Tat Ein village, on the outskirts of Nyaungshwe in Shan State, is a brand new business: Baby Obama’s Shop. This is the first time I’ve noticed any sort of shop on that road, or anywhere near the vicinity of Tat Ein, but with the increasing number of tourists in the area, including some that make a short trek from town to see the primary school and monastery (and visit the famous “monk in the cave”) in this tiny village, I shouldn’t be shocked that someone would try to open up a stand and sell something.
The shop was named by a local villager after her son, a 3-year-old whose nickname is, not surprisingly, Obama. Ah, the power of the global village! Both mother and baby are very friendly and polite, and thankfully haven’t reached the pushy “buy from me” stage yet. At this makeshift outdoor “shop” they sell a variety of local handicrafts (I almost bought an old Shan style knife for a friend one day; it may not have been an antique but it WAS rusty!), snacks, and bottles of water. Nothing you really have to have, but I like the idea of buying something and supporting enterprising villagers.
One morning when I cycling to the school (where I taught English classes for 3 days; more about that in a future post), I stopped to buy some paper fans as gifts for friends back in Bangkok. The father of the young woman who runs the shop noticed that the basket on my bike was loose (somehow a couple of screws had fallen out; blame that on the huge load of mangoes I put in there the day before) and offered to fix it for me. He didn’t have any screws, but using his practical village ingenuity, he fastened the basket with some heavy twine. Worked like a charm. Before leaving, this gentleman invited me to his home the next time I was in the village, and also offered me a handful of snack beans (that looked like black-eyed peas to me!), Whatever these beans are called, they were crunchy and delicious. With my basket now secure, I pedaled off towards the school, with grandpa, mama, and Baby Obama waving goodbye, urging me to come back again. You bet I will.