Semester at Sea Fall 2006 Voyage
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Family Fun in Burma
Inle Lake, Myanmar
By Michelle Cox
When Chloe and I
returned to our
bungalows after trekking, we decided to take a guided traditional canoe
through the floating gardens by our floating hotel on
Dwight and Jane began to ask the guides questions about themselves, such as: “Is this where you live?” “Are you married?” “Do you have children?” The guides kind of answered with very vague answers which we could hardly understand, so we all just figured that maybe they didn’t understand the question since they hardly spoke English. All of a sudden the guides turned the canoes around, pulled over in front of one of the houses, got out of the canoe, and led us up the stairway to this house. We all took off our shoes and headed up the stairs not really understanding what was going on or what we were doing there.
At the top of the stairs there was a large living room with posters and family pictures plastered all over the walls. The guides then invited us to sit down at a Little-tyke sized table in the corner of the room where there was a metal tea pot. When we sat down, a little old woman brought out some “fine china” and a bowl of bananas and tangerines, then poured us each a cup of tea. They really didn’t say much, but we knew this wasn’t the ordinary route for these canoe rides. We attempted to ask how many of them lived in this one house as more and more people walked into the room. They told us there is the mother and father, the two grandparents, two brother and two sisters. The sisters were in their early 20’s and were very bright-eyed and curious about us.
Out of no where, one of the sisters grabbed a calendar off the wall and pointed at November 4th as she motioned up to the sky at the same time. She didn’t use words, because she knew we wouldn’t understand what she was saying. We still had no idea what she was trying to tell us, so Jane handed her a piece of paper and a pen to see if she would draw it. The girls ended up drawing a hot air balloon and wrote the word “tongyi”. We still were slightly unclear as to what she was communicating to us, but she was obviously excited to share with us that she would be riding in a hot air balloon on November 4th. Later we found out from our tour guide that Tongyi is the full moon festival where everyone goes into the mountains and rides in hot air balloons to celebrate. It was interesting to see what makes Burmese people excited and how they communicate that to people who don’t understand their language.
After we took a group picture of all of us with the family, we thanked them all repeatedly. The mother of the household kept on saying “nevermind” in response to us. To me, the “nevermind” was their way of asking us for money in return. I might have drawn this assumption just because we had become so used to Burmese people asking us for money and expecting things from us. However, when I asked the others in our group what they thought about the “nevermind,” they all thought it was their way of saying no problem or don’t worry about it.
time that I spent with the Burmese family raised some questions in my
about their true happiness. I wonder if
the family lives with the same amount of fear of the government
they don’t live in such an urban area and aren’t completely exposed to
military as much as those in the larger cities. I
wonder if that is why the family seems so content and
though they have very few possessions and practically live in the
nowhere. As Monique Skidmore frequently
mentions in her article “Darker than :
Fear, Vulnerability, and Terror
Making in Urban Burma,”
fear is quite common and obviously noticeable in more urban cities of
was definitely my favorite experience in
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