Archive for March, 2010


This is what a dear friend of mine (with whom I have shared the longest friendship) forwarded me by mail.

I Believe…
That just because two people argue,
It doesn’t mean they don’t love each other.
And just because they don’t argue,
It doesn’t mean they do love each other.

I Believe…
That we don’t have to change friends if
We understand that friends change.

I Believe….
That no matter how good a friend is,
they’re going to hurt you every once in a while
and you must forgive them for that.

I Believe…
That true friendship continues to grow,
even over the longest distance.
Same goes for true love.

I Believe…
That you can do something in an instant
That will give you heartache for life.

I Believe….
That it’s taking me a long time
To become the person I want to be.

I Believe…
That you should always leave loved ones with loving words.
It may be the last time you see them.

I Believe….
That you can keep going
Long after you think you can’t.

I Believe….
That we are responsible for what
We do, no matter how we feel.

I Believe…
That either you control your attitude
Or it controls you.

I Believe…

That heroes are the people who do what has to be done
When it needs to be done, regardless of the consequences.

I Believe….
That my best friend and I can do anything or nothing
And have the best time.

I Believe…..
That sometimes the people you expect to kick you when you’re down
Could be the ones to help you get back up.

I Believe…
That sometimes when I’m angry
I have the right to be angry,
But that doesn’t give me the right to be cruel.

I Believe….
That maturity has more to do with
What types of experiences you’ve had
And what you’ve learned from them
And less to do with  how many
birthdays you’ve celebrated.

I Believe….
That it isn’t always enough, to be forgiven by others.
Sometimes, you have to learn to forgive yourself.

I Believe…
That no matter how bad your heart is broken
The world doesn’t stop for your grief.

I Believe….
That our background and circumstances
May have influenced who we are,
But, we are responsible for who we become.

I Believe…
That you shouldn’t be so eager to find
Out a secret. It could change your life Forever.

I Believe….
Two people can look at the exact same
Thing and see something totally different.

I Believe…..
That your life can be changed in a matter of hours
By people who don’t even know you.

I Believe…
That even when you think you have no more to give,
When a friend cries out to you,
You will find the strength to help.

I Believe…
That credentials on the wall
Do not make you a decent human being.

I Believe…
That the people you care about most in life
are taken from you too soon.

I Believe…
That you should share this with
All of the people that you believe in.

I Believe…
The happiest of people don’t necessarily
have the best of everything;
They just make the most of everything they have.

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My mom got this little poem by Gabriel Mistral in a medical lecture about pneumonia and children.  It’s beautiful!

Baby

A child ...

We are guilty of many errors and many faults,
But our worst crime is abandoning the children,
Neglecting the fountain of life
Many things we need can wait
But the child cannot. Right now is the time;
His bones are being formed,
His senses are being developed
His blood is being made
To him, we cannot answer, “Tomorrow”,
His name is “Today”.

A child dies unnecessarily every 3 seconds because of extremely poverty, every 15 seconds because of scarcity of pure water, and more are every moment of time for many other causes.  What do we do?

SOURCE: Jokes from Reader’s Digest

A man who had just died, arrived at heaven’s gate. Before allowing him entry, St. Peter asked him if he’d ever loved a woman.

“No,” the man replied, “not a single one.”

“Did you have a friend you cared for?”

“No.”

“Perhaps you loved a pet?  Did you not feel a love for nature?”

“No, not at all”

“What took you so long to get here?” asked St. Peter in exclamation.  “You’ve been dead for ages!”

This is an essay adopted from Henry Shefter’s “Shefter’s Guide to Better Compositions”.  A  Myanmese (Burmese) language teacher of mine made us read this in the class before writing an essay.  It has a subtle start and surprisingly startles the reader with a touching twist in the ethereal end.  Enjoy…

“SHADOWS”

Shadows

Shadows in the Night

The child is in bed, awake, frightened by the howling wind and the shadows dancing on his walls.  His toy animals seem enormous as they are magnified on the ceiling by the dim light outside room. His clothes, laid carelessly on a chair, also throw off peculiar shadows.  He sees witches and goblins, dragons and giants.  The child is afraid of what he sees.  I would not be afraid.

The young woman hurries along, alone in the dark.  The only light is a dim street lamp.  The buildings all around her seem huge and horrible; their shadows fill her with fear.  She imagines terrible things and begins to run.  The only sound is the noise of her heels tapping on the sidewalk.  She is afraid of what she sees and what she doesn’t see.  I would not be afraid.

The soldier waits anxiously at the door.  Though the window shades he can see the fingers of a man and a woman, with shades he can see the figures of a man and a woman, with their heads bent as if they were whispering.  It is difficult to determine to whom the shadows belong.  He prays that his sweetheart has not found someone new during his long absence.  He hesitates before ringing the bell.  He fears what he sees.  I would not be afraid.

I would not fear the shadows on the walls.  They would be my friends.  I would watch them dance and dance with them.  O, what beautiful shadows I would see!

I would not fear walking in the dark and seeing ht e shadows of tall buildings.  The buildings would protect and keep me warm.  They would be friendly shadows.

I would not fear seeing the shadows of two people through a window.  They are my friends waiting for me.  They would be happy shadows.

I would not fear shadows. I pray for them instead.  I would love to see a shadow, any shadow – big or small – for just a moment.  I am blind.

What I Think: Well, this is really beautiful … I consider myself as an aesthetic artist but such an idea would not have sprung from my mind.  But I don’t like the idea of a blind wanting to see shadows; it would be preposterous for a person who is visually disadvantaged wanted to see shadows, which are anonymous with the dark or blindness.  However, I would not be able to comprehend a blind individual’s thoughts even if I had the power to read their minds.

I still consider a part of me to still be a child; and may it be a child for all times’ sake.  I have found an affinity within myself with little kids while teaching them.

While preparing for college applications, I inevitably had to engage myself in some community service as a volunteer to show to the college as a particularly activity I did for the community before joining any schools.  I had been meaning to do that for some time.  However, I had a hard time deciding what to do for there were so many options:  I could look for the senior citizens at a home for the elderly, take care of sick monks and nuns in a Sasana hospital, teach orphans in an orphanage, etc.  I just wanted a change in my routine and so badly wanted to try something new.  At last, I finally arrived at the decision to teach little children for the summer at the English language school I used to go to.  The teacher invited me there.  He is not my old-time teacher, but I accepted the invitation because I like the ambiance of the school and the payment didn’t matter.  The wages for the teachers weren’t high (That’s why I didn’t mind); the school was small with only 3 head teachers and many other teachers of lower ranks.

So, I went there on the first day of the summer classes.  The little children came in with time accompanied by their parents.  They started to arrive before 9 in the morning and till 10 o’clock, they’re pouring in.  There were tiny ones – 4 to 6 year-olds – and the eldest were just above 10, altogether about 300.  Watching them gather in the hall, I was reminded of Michael Jackson’s spoken intro to “Heal the World”: “Think about the generations so that they wanna make a better place for the children and the children’s children … so that they can make it a better world for them.  I think they can make it a better place.” It’s just simple utter but it means a lot to most who have heard the song.  Parts of the first verse from Whitney Houston’s “Greatest Love of All” also came to mind …
“I believe the children are our future
Teach them well and let them lead the way
Show them all the beauty they possess inside
Give them a sense of pride to make it easier …”

And on a board on the wall wields the motto of the school, which is a quote by the American educator and astronaut Christa McAuliffe which reads, “I touch the future.  I teach.

Then, I thought to myself, “Wow, this is gonna be a wonderful summer – probably one of the most memorable in my life!

It’s been about a month since the classes started, and so far, I am right.  I was a part time teacher, so I don’t have to teach a particular class.  I was everywhere, helping the teachers who need help.  At the beginning of the classes, I had only thought about teaching, not the children, because I have firmly kept in mind that the greatest good one can do for others is to help them discover what they have within themselves.  It is correct; that’s what all great people have done for those around them.  Day by day, I came to develop an affinity for the children, not only my students but for the whole student body at school.

Children in the world

Honestly, I have always loved children.  But previously, I saw them only as little animals (humanlings), like kittens, puppies and chicks – nothing more.  I’d play with them, make them smile and “let bygones, be bygones”Animals (beasts) in the Burmese language are defined as creatures that care only for three things, namely food, sleep and sex.  Well, I was kind of wrong to think that children think about eating, sleeping and having fun (For them it’s fun, not sex, coz you know they don’t …).  My attitude changed.  I found hundreds of them coming together for language classes during the summer when they should be playing 24/7.  And they had either acquiesced to their parents’ demand or come by their own free will – which is very appreciable.  The head of the school arranged a lot of play things for the students for this particular reason.  Teaching little children, even for an assistant teacher, can be tough because the children no matter what the age are all over the place, running around, screaming and laughing for one instance and crying the next.  From teaching the correct spellings and pronunciations to making them memorize and recite require arduous efforts, and unsurprisingly, at the end of the day, all your energy is sapped.

Yet it is thinking about them before going to bed can be of a most subtle and pleasant feeling.  Not that it’s intense but it makes me feel euphoric and make me soft squeals and giggles before falling asleep just to think about a little boy coming to say hello to me, a girl who got cross because a teacher made her correct the mistakes, a boy whose pronunciation cannot be corrected even after trying for more than 20 minutes, a girl colouring a cow red, a boy crying because he had left his pencil case at home.  All of the small things come to my mind to be recorded down in my journal.  Well, these are “Small Gifts” to me from fate of my karma, and I’m glad I enjoy every bit of it.

For the children, we – as teachers – are to give all we have to educate them and nurture them in every possible way we can.  They truly are our future and the next generations need them …

Tomorrow’s sad …  it’s Saturday and I don’t get to see the children.  It would be a SADurday.  They are wonderful, they are more than “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”: they are what they are … CHILDREN!

In my life, I’ve been to some towns and some big cities … but never had I before come to realize the differences between them and understand why.

The other day I went out with my old schoolmates … They wanted to celebrate after one of them became the best male singer and the other, the king among the medical students who are to graduate in 2014.  And they wanted to hang out with me since I got back to my hometown, Mandalay, after my 5-month stay for SAT classes in Yangon.  I had coached the singer on the phone while I was away in Yangon (not that I’m an expert in vocal pedagogy).  Here’s how it went …

I left my house before 11 am on my motorbike, and reached the dainty restaurant, embellished with simple furniture and serving tempting food.  (I’ve been there before) It was a most appealing spot for a group of friends to get together for a meal.  There were 12 twelve of us altogether so we had to join tables without reservation.  The waiters were amiable when we ordered food.  We were the noisiest group in the restaurant but nobody minded us blather loudly as we had lunch in our own ridiculous way.  The food was delicious and the company of friends made it even tastier.  We sat there for about a long time, even after paying the bill.  Wonder how much the lunch cost?  It cost only K30,000, which is the most reasonable price for a meal of 12 people.

Then, we went around town just to kill time, sharing bikes.  It lasted for some time as we were riding slowly and spoke a lot on the way.  We made a pic-stop at an internet café, and since there weren’t enough computers free for our group, we had to share the computers.  (Most of the people from Mandalay don’t use the internet at home; they go to shops where they can get internet access.)  It was Ok with everyone there – from the service providers to the clients, including us.  The charge for one hour (at a computer) was only K300, so it was only K1,200 we spent on the internet because a computer was shared by 3.

Before going home, we stopped at one of the friends’ house.  Her mother was so hospitable; she gave us tea and we had a nice long chat with her.  She showed her daughter’s photos (i.e. our friend) from when she was little and we talked about a lot of things.  There were 12 of us, so it was more than 30 subjects we talked about.  It was really a nice day out, a low-key celebration with friends, and it was special indeed.  I’d be doing that soon before I leave town again!

Just yesterday, some thought came to mind.  What if such a celebration were in Yangon with the Yangonian friends? … Hmm, let me tell you what:

  1. Everything would cost more … much more.
  2. The hangout would be more tiring and less fun.
  3. And there wouldn’t be much to remember about it.

Why?

I was in Yangon for 5 months, which is almost half a year, and I came to know about the lives of the average citizen.  Although I stayed there with an elitist family, I had to go out as an ordinary student.  I had to public transportation, walked on foot, go to places and get things done myself and draw up my own budget.  I know how things are though I don’t know how it feels like for the people.

The buses for public transportation carry 60 passengers or more when they are supposed to carry 25.  The buses are mostly very old and not serviced; it sometimes feel like I’m on a roller-coaster when I’m on a bus.  Each ride cost K200 at the average, and we mostly need 2 or 3 rides to go from place to place.  The food there – as I always say – is “half the taste and twice the price”.  Most of the restaurants are not hygienic despite the modernity of the city.  To have a decent meal is to find a well-built or well-decorated restaurant but you can only get service with frowns (I don’t know the reason why).  There wouldn’t be much talk for the Yangon people keep things to themselves all the time.  And when friends hang out, only one can’t do the payment because of the high prices.  Everyone contributes to the bill so that no one goes penniless.  Consider it as K3,200 per head for a decent meal at a regular price.  Since neither bikes nor motorbikes are allowed on the streets of Yangon, we can’t scout for fun on our own bikes; it’s either walk a long distance or take the bus.

Hanging out with the dudes from Yangon would not go well in an internet café for everyone affords to use it at home.  Dropping by at a friend’s is not an option either; every family member’s at work and even on holidays, the hosts wouldn’t bother to have a bunch of kids at their home.  We’d have to go to either the cinema or the swimming pool.  At the swimming pool, it’s at least K2,000 per head for a swim.  For the cinema, no one would want to sit in a seat which costs less than K1,000.  After the movie or the swimming extravaganza, we’d have to go on to a drink or an ice-cram in a café.  Cafés in Yangon are more expensive than regular restaurants.  Why there wouldn’t be much to remember is nobody would be savouring every moment of the time together.  They’d have other things popping up in their mind all the time.

Another thing apart from hanging out …

This morning, got to the Jefferson Centre (the Mandalay branch of the US Embassy’s American Centre) where there are English classes and a reading room.  This was my first visit after I got back in town.  I had starting writing for the student newsletter of the American Centre in Yangon and I was asked to extend the news scope to the centre in Mandalay.  So, I was there to get some news.  I also heard they were converting the reading room to a library.  I asked them if books are available for loan and “no” was the answer.  And for the news, I was told of an even which happened over 3 months ago – that is so NOT newsworthy.  The activities there have been relent.  The presentation programme has come to a halt for there was no longer a presenter.  Now, they are doing some petty discussion programme with the few students they have.

This is so unlike the ambience of the American Centre in Yangon.  There, we have the Baldwin Library with a large number of active members, the Self-Access Centre where students do self-study, the Eleanor Roosevelt building where there are English language and other classes, 19 student clubs and weekly student activities and more.  I again came to wonder why the two establishments under the same authority.

BOTTOMLINES

The answers to these two situations – the hanging out and the library thing – are locality and the people.  Look at the locations and histories of the two cities.  Yangon has been around for more than 500 years.  And as Dagon (when it was a small town), it has been there for more than 2,000 years for the sacred hairs of the Gautama Buddha and some remains of 3 other Buddhas are entombed beneath Shwe Dagon Pagoda.  As for Mandalay, it has just celebrated its 150th birthday.  Yangon is near the sea and has a harbour and an international airport and everything necessary for international commerce.  Mandalay is the heart of Upper Myanmar but can only trade with some parts of Asia, not the whole world.  In area, Mandalay is only about a quarter of Yangon.

For some reasons besides the aforementioned, individualism has become the norm in Yangon.  Every individual stands for himself and does not usually intermingle with society.  Because of international trade, the city has become cosmopolitan.  People are more modernized and are more active in a lot of things.  And there is rapid urban sprawl which, of course, makes the town larger.  And the larger the city, the greater the living cost.  Life becomes tough and so do the people.  They have come to develop the metropolitan pride which makes them arrogant even to people from the second largest city (Mandalay) in the nation.  Despite such a pride, no one tends to have an affinity for another.

Thus, I came to both like and dislike the city of Yangon at the same time.  I like if for the advances in everything that it has.  But the people there are not the ones I can get along with very well.  Well, I want my hometown to be as developed and modern as Yangon.  However, I don’t think that is a good idea because if it were to catch up with Yangon, most of the bucolic surroundings, the amenable natures of the local people and more would have to sacrifice to the urban sprawl, the pollution and other bad consequences.