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

Mandalay Movers

As I wrote in a previous post, I had to go to Mandalay recently to move things out my friend’s apartment. This friend, who I’ll call “H,” has been hospitalized for the past two months in Bangkok. He’s still in ICU and his condition has not improved. In fact, talking to one of his doctor’s earlier this week, it appears that he has suffered considerable brain damage and will need long-term care … that’s if he even survives the infection that they are currently treating him for.


I had an early afternoon flight on Bangkok Air to Mandalay. Once I was settled in my hotel, I called Kyaw Moe Aung, the assistant principal at the Horizon International School where my friend has been teaching. He arranged for a meeting the following morning. A van from the school picked me up at my hotel and took me to the school’s campus on 58th Street. I met with Mr. Ahmet, the principal, and also Kyaw Moe Aung. They were both very polite and cooperative, assuring me that they wanted to do whatever they could to help. As I was telling them about “H” and how long I’ve known him, I recalled some of the things he’d done to help me in the past … and I started breaking down, crying right there in the principal’s office. I can’t remember the last time that ever happened, but there was nothing I could do about it; the emotions just hit me all at once.


Knowing that “H” could sometimes be a demanding and difficult person to deal with, the school wanted to make sure that we took a careful and thorough inventory of his possessions before moving anything. They have a contract with the apartment building where “H” was living, and several other teachers and administrators from the school live there too, so they had keys, and I had a set of keys too, so we arranged to go to the apartment that day and make an inventory of everything. Along with Kyaw Moe Aung and myself, one of the teachers came along to take photos, a secretary from the office came to write a list of everything we found, plus another teacher and the school’s lawyer came to witness the whole procedure.


 It was more than a little eerie being in the apartment without “H” being there. I’d been there the last time I was in Mandalay, back in late August, and he took me from room to room, showing me all the things he’d bought for the place. He had obviously spent a lot of money furnishing the apartment and making it look very nice, and he was very proud of the place. It saddens me that he’ll probably never set foot in the apartment again. We spent several hours going through drawers, shelves, and closets in each room, making lists and taking photographs of everything, including of all the documents and receipts he had. In the kitchen alone there was an incredible amount of food, condiments, utensils, pots and pans, and other stuff. I knew that “H” liked to bake and cook, but I was astonished by the amount of stuff that he had. He lived alone, but he was equipped to cook for an entire football team!


After that first day, we returned for another day of boxing, bagging, and moving everything. After discussing the situation with Mr. Ahmet, we decided to keep everything in the apartment for the time being, but move it all into one side of the living room. This way, the next tenant (a new teacher, most likely) will be able to use most of the apartment except for the one room with all the stuff in it. On that day, three of my friends from the teashop showed up to help. The teashop owner, U Tin Chit, came along with Ko Maw Hsi and U Nyunt Tin, Khin Nwe Lwin’s father. The fact that these men volunteered to help me, sacrificing most of their day (and in the case of U Tin Chit, giving up the time when he normally sleeps) really touched me. The school also furnished six people, so we had a lot of helping hands that day. I was afraid it was going to be a case of “too many cooks in the kitchen” but we managed to get everything done without too much disorganization or inefficiency. We made more lists, took more photos, and managed to box, bag, and cover everything by early afternoon. The school arranged for lunch to be brought over, and we had a very filling meal.


I thought everything would be done that day, but I got a phone call from the school that evening, asking if I could come back again the following morning to move some more stuff. They had decided that we needed to disconnect the fridge, washing machine, and water cooler and put those things in the back room also. I had made plans to take two of the kids from 90th Street, Zin Ko and Moe Htet Aung, to Zeigyo Market that morning, so I arranged for the school van to pick me up a little later, at 11:30. I brought the two boys with me, and along with one of the teachers from the school, we got the rest of the stuff moved in short order.


Finally done, I surveyed the room, feeling both sad and satisfied. We’d done a good job of organizing, inventorying, and storing everything, but I don’t think my friend will ever see this stuff again. Plus, I fear that this will only be the first step. Unless “H” makes a miraculous recovery, I’ll probably need to return to Mandalay at some point in the near future and arrange to sell some of his things or donate some of it to a charity of some sort. But at least I can be assured of many nice people, pitching in to help. And it’s in Mandalay, a city I love, so it won’t exactly be a hardship.



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