Ti Ti…
A Remarkable Young Lady

This essay is about a remarkable young lady; her name it Ti Ti. In my 76 years wandering down my yellow brick road of life, one of a handful of life-changing experiences was meeting Ti Ti. Let me explain the backstory. Over five years ago, I was in Myanmar (Burma). Aside from visiting the country, I went there hoping to interview Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the Lady. While in the country, I was with Moh Moh, my tour guide, who showed me the sites on and around Inle Lake. On one day toward the end of my time with Moh Moh, she told me that she needed to pick up some paperwork about where I was going next and who my new tour guide would be. Then she mentioned that I could meet her nine-year-old daughter, Ti Ti, who was home on winter break.

Moh Moh’s intent was to pick up the itinerary and introduce me to Ti Ti. It would take ten minutes and then visiting and sightseeing the area. As we walked into her living room, there was Ti Ti. “Hi! My name is Ti Ti. Do you want to play some games?” Instead of ten minutes, we were there for over an hour. Some of the time was spent playing Scrabble with Ti Ti and just chatting. I left there a different person; I had met my granddaughter. While I was in the area, I met her two younger sisters and her father.

While in Myanmar, I failed to interview the Lady, but I discovered a young lady…my granddaughter. That was over five years ago. Last year, during my winter break, I returned hoping again to interview Aung San Suu Kyi, but, far more importantly, I wanted to visit my family. Ti Ti was thirteen and her younger sisters were six and eight at that time. We played games and talked. We went all over visiting Taunggyi, which is a large city and absolutely enjoyed every moment. That is the backstory.

Now, in the present-day, I’m just beginning the process of raising a half million dollars for the two schools that my three granddaughters attend. They attend school with 1250 other students. The school that Ti Ti attends is what we would call a school for gifted students. Ti Ti is surely gifted. Anytime I mention Ti Ti, the first thing that I say is I love her and that she is brilliant. She is also my assistant web administrator of my webpage. She wrote captions for around 1,000 photos that I took on my second trip to Myanmar.

A couple of weeks ago, in one of Moh Moh’s emails to me, she mentioned that Ti Ti has taken up residence at her school. It is one of the ways that her school prepares their students academically. Essentially, she is in class or studying all day into the evening. Ti Ti won’t be fifteen for a little more than two months. I wanted the opportunity simply to wrap my arms around Ti Ti and then add that she will be successful. Since it will be nine months before I am back in Myanmar, all that I could do is to write to Ti Ti.

Ti Ti,

In a recent letter from your mother, she told me that you were living at the school.  She mentioned that this would help you do well in school and with grades.  Now, as your grandfather and who has taught longer at the college level than you have been alive, I know something about great students.  Anytime that I mention your name to friends of mine in the States, I always tell them that you are the smartest person around your age that I know…by far.

You are a gifted young lady, Ti Ti.  I admired you five years ago.  Words can’t describe how much I see in you.  You are intelligent, caring, loving, sweet, helpful, fun to be with, etc.  You are amazing.  Now, I don’t lie.  You are unique.

Having said that, life isn’t easy.  Sometimes, things get in our way, and we wonder whether we can continue on our yellow brick road of life.  However, even when things cause you to question yourself, I know that you will succeed.  We have a saying in America: you can believe you can, or you can believe you can’t, either way you will be correct.  Think about that.

Ti Ti, you trust me.  I am confident that you will do wonders…tomorrow, next week, next month and for decades to come.  I am really proud of you.  Well, I’m proud of you and the rest of your family. 

Hopefully, by the end of this month, I will have all the things done to begin the fundraising drive of a half million dollars.  It is interesting how our lives parallel each other’s.  You are facing large challenges, and so am I.  Hey, I get scared also.  No one in America has accomplished what I hope to do before the end of this year.  And who started me on my quest?  Ti Ti, my granddaughter.  

Also, go to http://wolverton-mountain.com/articles/index.html and then go to http://wolverton-mountain.com/travel/index.html.  Thank you for helping me with my pictures.  People tell me that they admire what you have done for me with the photos. 

Well, Ginger wants to go for a late evening walk….

Love,

PaPa Al


PS  Nine months from now, I’ll be back, and I’ll beat you at Scrabble.

When I emailed Ti Ti, I copied my email to Moh Moh. I didn’t think that she would be allowed to have an iPhone at school. The following is Moh Moh’s response.

Allen,

How lucky Ti Ti is having a grandpa like you. Your words are invaluable. I am sure that she can have alot of encouragement for her life from your words.

Actually, my father was pass away when he was only 50 years old. At that time Ti Ti was only two years old.

As for Ko Ko's father and mother, they were already divorced when Ti Ti was born. So that she hasn't actual grandpa.

Now, she has very kind, care and loving grandpa. Lucky Ti Ti.

I am also sooo thanks to your words and mail.

I will go to Ti Ti and talk about your mail. Like you think, she hasn't iPhone at her school. Not allowed.

Also, we have been proud for you because you could have IRS issue. Seemingly, you can be busy with your works and fund raising drive. If I can help anything that I can, I am happy to help you.

Your's sincerely,

Moh Moh

I read Moh Moh’s reply, and it took me awhile to stop crying about Ti Ti. As I am writing this essay, I am working my way through Kleenexes. Finally, this was my reply to Moh Moh.

Moh Moh,

Well, if Ti Ti benefits, can you imagine how I have benefited from her and my family?  I’m a grown man, and I cry just thinking of all the times that we have had over the past handful of years.  I miss my family, but I will be back.  It is strange how one moment in time, a handful of years ago, changed everything.  We walked into your living room, and I was greeted by Ti Ti, “Hi my name is Ti Ti.  Do you want to play some game ?”

I am very lucky to have met you, Ko Ko and the girls. 

Take care,

Allen

A couple days later, I got the following email from Ti Ti. I assume Moh Moh brought Ti Ti her iPhone and had her read my email to Ti Ti allowed her to email her response.

Dear Papa Al,

I'm so happy to receive your letter. My life in the school hostel is pleasant. But I sometimes feel  homesick. But I'm so happy in here with my friends.

I can't wait to see you again in Dec. Days and years slide soft away and I still remember the time we first met. I'm never forget that time. I told my friends about you .How much my Papa al love me. They said I'm so lucky to have such a loving Grandpa. Indeed, I also feel so lucky too.

So much for now. I have to study my lessons. I'll see you again in December.

Yours ever,

Ti Ti

This is reply to my granddaughter.

Ti Ti,

Getting an email from you is the most important part of my life. It is second only to seeing you again. I mean that.

I took Ginger for a walk around the lake, had breakfast, and got cleaned up. Then I went to my office to teach and write. But first, I checked my emails. I was excited. I am holding back tears, tears of sheer joy, while writing to you.

You were the bridge that tied your family to mine. Next week, there will be an essay about you on my webpage and Facebook. Interestingly, my funding raising drive, which will start in less than a week, was because of you. I learned two things: both schools needed laptops and improved Internet reception. I remember giving you your laptop one evening before returning to the States. I told you that your parents would help you the next day to get an email address, etc. The next morning, you announced to me that you got one all by yourself. Then you showed me how to use your laptop.

Also, Sandy has posted all your captions for my photos that you did for me. There must have been more than a thousand photos in those six folders. Sometime, look at your masterpiece.

Talking about remembering things like our poems, your goals in life, etc. However, we had so much fun when you did some of your magic tricks. Your mom videoed all your tricks, which are up on my webpage. We sat there arguing about doing the trick again so I could figure it out.

Ti Ti, I mean this. You added so much to my life. Nevertheless, this is more critical. You are a remarkable young lady. That isn’t an exaggeration; it is the truth. I wrote about the saying that we have in the States, “You can believe you can, or you can believe you can’t, either way, you will be correct.” Believe in yourself. You’re are an extremely capable person.

I have another saying that we use, “No pain, no gain.” Pain, strangely, is a blessing. Pain moves us to deal with some situation. The pain that I felt about the other students in the two schools moved me to raise the money for the laptops. Finally, I’ll be able to start very soon to raise the money.

You and your family feel the pain about being separated, but when you can get together with them, you will really appreciate your time together. Hey, I can’t wait to see you and your family again. I miss them all.

I’m so proud of you, Ti Ti.

Take care, and I love you,

PaPa Al

So, this was an emotional essay about my family and me. While it is all true, it lacks the pain that I feel not being with them, especially with Ti Ti.

Some of you might be thinking, so what? Campbell loves and misses his family in a country half a world away. He loves them and wants to help his family and the children with whom they attend school.

I have spent the time writing this essay to express a truth about which my world rotates, but there is more than just that. Myanmar is an emerging country. It was hidden from the rest of the world for much of the last half of the 20th century. And yet, it is now getting into gear. Education is critically important if they are going to be successful. That’s Myanmar.

It all boils down to how we define family. I have a family here in the States and in a country a half a world away. There is absolutely no difference between my families. However, look at America today. It isn’t the beacon on the hill. This country is led by a racist, a sexist, a person who is xenophobic, and is anti-anybody who isn’t white. Our president defines his family quite narrowly. Everyone else are the others. The question for us is who makes up your family. Man, we all need to expand our definition of the word, family.