I’m off to Myanmar again next week and I am very much looking forward to the trip. Many people still call the country Burma, but many people don’t know much about the history of the country or why the name was changed, much less the fact that the country is comprised of 14 different states or regions, each of which is dominated by a different ethnic group. Mon, Kayin, Wa, Kachin, Karen, Shan, Pa-O, and on and on. In other words, if you call someone who is from the country “Burmese”, they might be offended. Needless to say, the whole name thing gets very convoluted and complex and confusing. Currently, the official name of the country is: The Republic of the Union of Myanmar. Doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, does it? But what the hell, it’s only a name. My preference: The Golden Land.
No matter what you call it, the most important thing is the people of the country. They are the reason that I go back again and again and again. At some point I can only visit Shwedagon Pagoda or explore Inle Lake so many times, but I never get tired of meeting the locals. And among the many charming people, my very favorites are the children of the country. Their unbridled energy, optimism, enthusiasm, and cheerfulness never fail to give my own spirits a much-needed lift.
In recent years I’ve developed a routine where I take a group of kids from the neighborhood on 90th Street in Mandalay on field trips in the area, and sometimes to town further away. I’ve subsequently done the same with the students and novice monks from Tat Ein village in Shan State. I love these trips; the kids are sweet and very appreciative and I get a kick out of the outings too.
This time around I’ve got more excursions planned. The novice monks want to see the ruins at Kakku, and I’ve promised Aung Thaung and Saing Aung that we’ll make that trek. The 90th Street crew wants to see the huge new zoo in Naypyidaw. Ye Win Zaw, the tiniest boy in the bunch, has already sent me a text message (yes, even in Myanmar, they are adapting to new technology with lightning speed, and at younger ages), asking when I’m coming. Finances permitting, and if the weather cooperates, we should be able to do it all. If nothing else, I plan to have some more fun tales to tell by this time next month.