Happy Birthday Moh Moh
And Many More

I have quoted George Santayana and Ibn Battuta countless times about the benefits of traveling overseas. Santayana pushed the educational value, “A child educated only at school is an uneducated child.” Ibn Battuta said, “Traveling leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” Both those travelers were correct.

I wish that I had taken this photo.

I wish that I had taken this photo.

The only issue Santayana and Ibn Battuta didn’t mention is that travel will raise our awareness that we are all related. Everyone is a part of the human race. However, I discovered my immediate family when I traveled to Myanmar a decade ago. I found two of my children and three of my grandchildren. This is a photo of us on my third visit to them four years ago.

Our Family

During 2023, I’m writing about each of my family members on their birthdays. The first was Fatty, my youngest granddaughter, whose birthday was on February 10th.

This article is about my daughter, Moh Moh, whose birthday is February 28th. This is Moh Moh with her three children and her husband a decade ago.

Our Family

Moh Moh began the process of discovering my family while she was my tour guide near Inle Lake. While taking me around Inle Lake, Moh Moh noticed what fascinated me. I loved the lake and the fishermen casting their nets. She knew that I like to photograph Buddhist shrines. However, Moh Moh knew I loved taking pictures of young children.

While Moh Moh showed me the various sites, she had to up my itinerary at her home after I left Inle Lake. Apologetically, Moh Moh mentioned that she didn’t want to waste any time picking up my itinerary. However, in the same sentence, she added that I could meet Ti Ti, her daughter, who was at home during winter break. Ti Ti was nine at the time. That was how Ti Ti and I met. As Moh Moh and I walked into their home, Ti Ti greeted me with this question. “Hi! My name is Ti Ti. Do you want to play some games?”

We played Scrabble for forty-five minutes, and much of the time, we laughed and giggled. We then went to a preschool that her two younger children attended.

On my last trip to visit my family, Moh Moh picked me up at the airport in Yangon to visit her mother and Than, my artist friend. While driving, I mentioned that it was cute how Ti Ti calls me PaPa Al. I have never heard Moh Moh raise her voice, and she didn’t do so in her reply to me. Nonetheless, her soft-spoken comment still echoes in my head today. “Allen, you are the only grandfather that she has.” I knew Ti Ti was my granddaughter when we first met on my first trip, but I didn’t grasp Ti Ti felt the same.

Moh Moh cares for her children. A decade ago, while she was taking me to villages around Inle Lake, I saw a photo of Aung San Suu Kyi and took a photo of Moh Moh next to the picture. Over lunch, we discussed how long it would be before Myanmar moved away from a military-controlled country. Moh Moh said that it wouldn’t be in her lifetime but maybe when her children were adults.

In the past ten years, Myanmar moved tentatively toward a fragile democracy with the help of Aung San Suu Kyi until the coup in 2021. The military government arrested Aung San Suu Kyi and 13,000 of her supporters. They are still in prison.

This is a photo of Ti Ti’s office in my home. Ti Ti wants to get a student visa and attend classes where I teach. After her college education in the States, she will return home to improve Myanmar.

I’m proud of my daughter. Moh Moh cares for her family and reaches out to locals to assist them. We went on a family tour together on my last trip to Myanmar. Since Moh and Ko Ko were tour guides, they picked places seldom seen by Western tourists. We went to many places, including Set Set Yo. I bet I was the only American that visited Set Set Yo in the past several years. It is a small village with several buildings, one of which housed several Buddhist monks.

This is a video of me flipping several children at Set Set Yo. Look at the children watching me flipping some of them. The children are holding notebooks and pencils that Moh Moh and Ko Ko gave the children. Moh Moh took some photos of the children.

Because of Moh Moh, I discovered my family a decade ago while playing Scrabble with Ti Ti. At Set Set Yo, I discovered my great-granddaughter, A Ngal Lay, which is Myanmar for the little one.

I don’t recall picking up A Ngal Lay. She hadn’t had her first birthday when we met. But the two of us attempted to grasp that brief moment. A small child’s eyes locked upon the eyes of an old man. I don’t recall much of that moment. We were attempting to grasp our time together. However, that moment paralleled what took place with Ti Ti years before.

Moh Moh, I hope you have a wonderful birthday tomorrow. I’m happy that I found you because you changed my life.