A Teaching Moment
While Walking Ginger

On July 4th, when many Americans put out American flags celebrating our 244th birthday as a nation, I didn’t. In the nearly two decades that I have lived in my home on a lake, I haven’t ever put out an American flag. Over the years, I have flown various flags of other nations which I have visited. No one ever question why I hadn’t followed the lead of my neighbors. Nevertheless, my not doing so is more than one of my idiosyncrasies. There is a reason behind that practice, but I am getting ahead of myself in this essay.

Early last Monday morning, I had gotten up at the regular time to circumnavigate the lake on which Ginger and I live. Usually, we don’t see many fellow travelers other than people with their dogs. This past Monday, we met Tim as he left his house to walk his dog. He and I have had brief chats often in the past as we were walking our dogs. That day, he mentioned that he noticed that he had seen three flags on my porch of the 4th. He admitted that he was unable to identify the countries of the flags.

I told him that the blue and white flag was the St. Andrew’s Cross, which is also called the Saltire. It is the official national flag of Scotland. However, the yellow and red flag is called the Royal Standard of Scotland. It is also called the Rampant Lion of Scotland. My friend wasn’t aware that either were Scottish flags.

Then I explained the flag that was in the middle of the two Scottish flags. I was the national flag of Myanmar since 2010. Tim wasn’t sure where Myanmar was located. Once I mentioned Aung San Suu Kyi, he realized that Myanmar was what he knew as Burma.

It was about then that our two dogs wanted to continue their walks. So, we chatted about my fascination with Myanmar. Since he knew about Aung San Suu Kyi, I started with my desire to interview her. I told him about trying to interview her over six years ago. Actually, I had tried to contact someone in Myanmar that could forward my request to her. I wrote to the Myanmar government offices, the US Embassy in Yangon, and a countless number people in the States and overseas about helping me. All my efforts for months prior to traveling to Myanmar failed. While I rattled off people that I emailed, I inadvertently used the name, the Lady. Aung San Suu Kyi is often referred to as the Lady. It took me some time to explain some of the reasons for that name.

While I failed in my attempt to contact the Lady, I told Tim that I still wanted to visit Myanmar. While I was there six years ago, I interviewed Min Ko Naing who spent years in the gulags of Myanmar as a result of the his involvement in the 8888 Uprising. He also didn’t have access to Aung San Suu Kyi’s email address.

Nevertheless, I wanted to visit that country for a long time. While there, I had a tour guide while I was visiting the area around Inle Lake. Her name was Moh Moh. We went to all the Buddhist shrines, various small villages, and took a boat ride on Inle Lake.

However, Moh Moh had to stop at home to pick up my itinerary after I left Inle Lake and who my next tour guide would be. I explained to Tim that I walked into their living room to find Ti Ti standing in the middle of the room. She was nine years old girl with the prettiest smile. She greeted me in perfect American English, “Hi! My name is Ti Ti. Do you want to play some games?” My friend heard all about Ti Ti and our playing Scrabble, meeting her younger sisters, and her father.

While I was not able to interview the Lady, I was fortunate to have met a young lady who was nine years old. Ti Ti tied my family in the States to her family in Myanmar.

Tim was fascinated by my excitement about my family who live on the other side of the world. By this time, we had been walking for about a half hour and had reached my home. I asked him to come in, and I would show him pictures of my family.

As Tin looked at the pictures various pictures scattered all over my home, I told him that I would make him a cup of Royal Myanmar Tea. He was the first and only person that I have ever offered this special treat. Moh Moh gave me a large bag of Royal Myanmar Tea when I left Myanmar during my winter break from teaching six months ago. When I drink it during the day while teaching online or writing, it reminds me of my family and the fun times that we had together. I have gone through her gift months ago and have ordered several additional bags from Amazon. I told him that he should feel honored that I shared with him something that I normally wouldn’t do.

We sat in my living room chatting about the changes that have occurred within me due to my three trip to Myanmar. I had mentioned to Tim about having written dozens upon dozens of essays about how my Weltanschauung had changed. He didn’t know that I had a webpage. I resolved that problem quickly.

I tried to explain that, when I talk about them as family members, they are my family. I returned two years ago for my second visit. However, on my third trip six months ago, we went on a family tour together. Our family tour was designed by Moh Moh and Ko Ko since they are both tour guides. I had emailed them several months prior to my third visit and told them that I wanted to visit Bagan, Mount Popa, and Yangon again. However, they were to come up with the rest of the itinerary, and they did. This an elephant ride that I had with my granddaughters.

This Ti Ti ballooning over Bagan.

This photo is of Ti Ti, Snow, and Fatty.

Moh Moh, Ko Ko, and I have already been planning our second family tour. I told Tim that they would plan the entire trip with only one caveat. I want to spend some time again in Yangon, Mawlamyine where the Great Pagoda is located, and visit to the Golden Rock. They will pick all the other sites. They have already mentioned a resort along the ocean.

A couple of years later, I will return to see Ti Ti graduate from college. Tim just sat there musing over my excitement. He kept on mentioning my exuberance. I was honest with Tim about not fully understanding all the reasons for my sheer joy. Surely, a large part of my enjoyment is that my three granddaughters will be the next generation helping their country to develop.

Tim knows that I am still teaching. I told him that in every class that I have taught over the past two decades have heard me push the notion of the importance of overseas travel. George Santayana said, “A child educated only at school is an uneducated child.”

I went on and on about America being a country that is isolated from the rest of the world by two oceans. There is a world out there to discover from which we can learn. There is a gap between what is in textbooks and what travelers learn while traveling. Ibn Battuta said of travel, “Traveling—it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” And most of the stories aren’t written in textbooks.

Finally, I ended my teaching moment with Tim addressing the issue that Donald the Dumb, our fake president pushes…America First. We are a part of the world. We need to be more inclusive and not act holier than the rest of the world. We live on this pale blue dot called Earth. There is only one race in this world…it is the human race. Traveling is the best teacher, but to be taught, you must travel.