The Best Week of My Life…
Occurred While I Was in Burma

Over the past four years, I’ve written many essays about my first trip to Burma (Myanmar). In each article, I mentioned that in a half century of travel overseas, Burma has been the best trip that I have ever taken. It surely was. Of all the four dozen or more countries that I have visited since graduate school, Burma was absolutely the very best journey of my entire life.

What makes this emerging nation, controlled by the military, so radically different from all the rest of the places that I have visited? The people. On my first trip, there were two extremely transformative people of the many that I met. Even though I failed to interview Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the Lady, nevertheless, I met and interviewed Min Ko Naing. He also invited me to the 88 Generation’s protest rally on Burma’s Independence Day, January 4th, at Sule Pagoda. Sharing time with him and attending a protest rally were extremely important political experiences for me. In many ways, they were reminiscent of the 60s in America during the civil rights movement.

As for the most emotionally transformative experience while in Burma, my playing Scrabble with Ti Ti surely had a profound effect upon me. That simple experience with Ti Ti meant that she became my granddaughter. At that time, Ti Ti was 9-years old. She was a charming and a cute young gal. In the four years that have lapsed, Ti Ti is now an extremely driven and brilliant over-achiever. Here are some of her awards and trophies.

Ti Ti also talks about wanting to be an inventor. I have no doubt that she can easily achieve that dream.

I spend most of my time writing and teaching online when I am back in the States. My desktop computer has two very large monitors. I wish that I had a third monitor. Nevertheless, I bought a laptop in order to store photos and videos related to my trip. In addition, I used My Passport as a secondary storage device. Having said that, I don’t like the smallness of a laptop.

However, Ti Ti can do anything with technology. I had stored most of my photos and videos already from my trip and decided to give my laptop to Ti Ti. This would allow her to use it. If I brought it back to the States, I’d only copy the photos and videos to my desktop and leave it on a shelf in my office. I don’t use a laptop except on trips. The laptop would benefit her and her sisters while merely collecting dust in my office. I told her that we could use it to Skype each other. Therefore, I suggested that she have her parents help her connect to Skype. The next morning, Ti Ti proudly announced that she signed up for Skype by herself.

Ti Ti said that we could email each other so that we could determine when we could Skype each other. I thought that was a great idea and her parents could help her with a Gmail account. A couple hours later, she announced that she signed up without her parents’ assistance. If that wasn’t enough, she asked whether I could change the sizes of photos on the computer and used the touchscreen? Ti Ti mastered the laptop, which I used only for storage issues. She accomplished all of this in less than two days.

Ti Ti’s next oldest sister is Snow, who was four on my first visit to Burma. There are interesting parallels between Snow today and Ti Ti four years ago. She loves to have fun, but she is very quiet. She is always thinking. Fixated is a good description of what she displays when she is reading or watching TV. The family took me out to dinner just before I left them to return to the States. While waiting for the meals, she was watching a TV program. I literally waved my hand 6-inches in front of her face. It was as if she didn’t see my hand at all.

However, the thing that I remember about Snow is that we were walking somewhere when I came for my recent visit. I happened to be walking next to her. We hadn’t gone 10- feet before she took a hold of my hand as we walked. She didn’t say anything…we just walked hand in hand. During the week that I was with Snow and her family, the issue of holding hands was repeated many times. In each time, there wasn’t anything said between us.

On the last evening that I was with the family, we had our last meal together. As we drove to a restaurant, she was sitting next to me. I reached for her hand. Like all the other times, we silently held hands. It was our expression of love between a granddaughter and her grandfather. I will never forget that expression of love.

And there is Fatty, who was two when we first met at her daycare center. Fatty’s English vocabulary is limited right now. However, while everyone else could communicate in English, Fatty communicated by her eyes. She would hop on my lap and giggle. Or we would be playing games with her sisters. She would ruffle my hair to which I would respond by tickling her. Then she’d look into my eyes with her dark and charming eyes as if to say, “Aren’t we having fun? I love you.”

In many ways, Fatty is the typical last born. She is full of energy to entertain all her onlookers. She is the family’s live-wire. Instead of calling me, PaPa Al, she yells, “Bo Bo Gyi!” Anytime that she sees me, I get that greeting.

Over the next several months, there will be a long list of essays about the best week of my entire life, which was spent with Ti Ti, Snow, Fatty, and their parents. I’ll be recounting many stories while attempting to deal with my hauntings. I am attempting to understand how overwhelmed I have been with Burma but especially with my Burmese family. Why am I so close to them?

I’m attempting to fathom what happened to me and why. Obviously, dancing with death has a lot to do with it. That family, especially the children, are beginning their journey down the yellow brick road of their lives while I am in my twilight years on my road.

Randy Pausch pushes his demand to declare your appreciation for love shown to you and not to put it off. If you don’t state your appreciation to people who have given you sheer joy, there will be a time when you can’t tell them.

Then there is the issue of my legacy. How will I be remembered when I am no longer around either in the States or in Burma. I want my Burmese family to know just how very special they are. They are indeed my family.

Burma flag

Burmese independence flag

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Connecting The Dots

Connecting the Dots

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Dancing with Death

Dancing with Death

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My Hauntings

My Hauntings

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The Last Lecture

The Last Lecture

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