This essay is about discovering my granddaughter, Ti Ti, a decade ago. Her mother was my tour guide around Inle Lake in Myanmar. However, she had to pick up my itinerary after I left Inle Lake. The documents were at her home. She apologized for wasting ten minutes during our tour. We walked into the living room and were greeted by Ti Ti. “Hi! My name is Ti Ti. Do you want to play some games?”
Ti Ti and I played Scrabble for an hour. However, much of our time was spent laughing and joking around. I left their home, having realized that I had met my granddaughter. Therefore, her parents are my children, and Ti Ti’s younger siblings are my granddaughters. Had it not been for Ti Ti’s mother having to pick up the paperwork about my itinerary, I would have missed the best thing that has happened to me in my eighty years of journeying down the yellow brick road of my life.
I have been back to visit my family twice since then. I made a deal with Ti Ti before my most recent trip. Essentially, she would go to college in Myanmar on my dime if she told me what she wanted to do after college. Ti Ti’s response was to make her country a better place. She prepared for college for a couple of years. Ti Ti worked hard at a college preparatory high school during the day and had private tutors in the evenings.
Three years ago, I returned to see a special assembly honoring graduates from her high school for their exemplary academic achievements. Ti Ti won first place in math in Shan State. Talk about being a proud grandfather of Ti Ti.
During that visit, her parents, Ti Ti, and I discussed where to attend college in Myanmar. I recall saying to them that going to a college away from home has immense benefits. It is a transition into adulthood. Colleges are places of higher education, but leaving home teaches you how to fend for yourself.
I returned home in early January 2020 from that trip. Less than two weeks, America had its first confirmed case of COVID. Ti Ti decided to go to Gusto University in Yangon. However, COVID had affected every country in the world.
The pandemic raged worldwide, but a military coup seized government control the following year. Fortunately, Gusto went from onsite to online teaching. Ti Ti took two years at Gusto online from her home. She is now at Gusto in Yangon and attended an orientation class...for a student that has taken two years at the university but online.
Ti Ti has a section on my website called College Days. She has been writing essays about her college days since she took an online class from me last semester. Her most recent posting is a video entitled First Day at Gusto University. While she has attended Gusto for two years, this posting is about being at Gusto in person. Ti Ti posted a video of the orientation.
Ti Ti enjoyed the icebreaker game that the orientation class played. She was excited to have moved from online to in-person.
While I am Ti Ti’s granddaughter, my Myanmar is limited. This statement flashed through my mind as I watched Ti Ti’s excitement.
နောက်ဆုံးတော့ လွတ်တယ်၊ နောက်ဆုံးတော့ လွတ်တယ်၊ မြတ်စွာဘုရားကို ကျေးဇူးတင်တယ်၊ နောက်ဆုံးတော့ လွတ်တယ်။
It is a paraphrase of Martin Luther King’s famous statement. This is what I thought while watching Ti Ti. “Free at last! Free at last! Thank Lord Buddha, I’m finally free to go to Gusto University in person!”