A Reason for Being…
The Most Important Reason for My Being

As I journeyed down my yellow brick road of life, I had a plan for things that I wanted to accomplish. I worked at them, dreamt about them, and tried to accomplish them. As they say, “You win some, and you lose some.” This essay is about losing one of them. For a couple of decades, I wanted to sit down with the Lady, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and interview her. I failed even though I tied.

I traveled to Myanmar during winter break from teaching in 2013 for that purpose. I emailed scores of people six months before leaving for Myanmar. I wanted them to forward my email to the Lady. With all my efforts, I didn’t even come close to interviewing her. Chalk that one up to a failure.

However, while in Myanmar, I traveled within the tourist triangle.

The tourist triangle

Seeing the various places in Myanmar fascinated me. When I was in Inle Lake, Moh Moh was my guide. However, she needed to stop at her home for my itinerary after leaving Inle Lake and mentioned that I could meet Ti Ti. This is a picture of Ti Ti and me playing Scrabble in their living room. Talk about serendipitous moments in life. I went to Myanmar to meet the Lady and discovered a young lady. Ti Ti was the bridge between my family in the States with her family in Myanmar. I also went back during winter break in 2017 and 2019.

Fast forward to the present, Ti Ti is in her second year at Gusto University. I wanted to return this year to visit my family during winter break. However, after returning two years ago, the coronavirus traveled throughout the world, and last year the military took over during a coup. I would have been with my family this Christmas and New Year’s had it not been for COVID and the coup.

This is a picture of Ti Ti.

This was Ti Ti’s Christmas email.

Merry Christmas Papa Al ♡(> ਊ <)♡
 Today is Christmas day in Myanmar.

 I just finished my database assignment yesterday, and I believe I will get high grade marks since I was working hard this semester. I am not sure yet, but there is a rumour between my friends that Gusto will reopen on campus next month. I am really looking forward to it.

 The day before, my family and I went to have a Christmas dinner. The pizza there was delicious and the pizza was delicious with lots and lots of topping. That was a great day.

 Today, me and my sisters plan to eat BBQ. I also plan to rest from assignments today. Tonight will be the sisters’ movie night, since my parents don’t like movie.

 How about you, Papa Al? Any plans for tomorrow?

Ti Ti

This was my reply.

Ti Ti,

How do I love thee, to quote Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnet 43? Well, I’d rather use my words. You are, since we first met, the most remarkable woman. Did you notice that I stopped writing that you are a young lady?

In retrospect, our bonding goes back to what I learned when my family moved to Mt. Lebanon. I saw myself as dumb and poor. That is a little overstated but true. I’ve written about being in Yangon with your mother visiting her mother and Than. She said two things to me that are forever etched into my psyche. The first was going to bed as a little girl wondering about having breakfast in the morning. Man, that really hurt me emotionally that she suffered along with the rest of her family.

The other was her response to my comment about Ti Ti’s cute comment about calling me, PaPa Al. Your mother responded that I was the only grandfather you had. At one level, that also hurts emotionally that you missed that relationship. However, I understood that you benefited from our relationship as much as I have.

As for Gusto. When your parents, you, and I talked about college, I said that going to school in a different city has benefits. You are forced to be on your own. That being said, the coup and the coronavirus worry me. I guess the safety and health issues are the same wherever you are, but….

I have an idea. I’ll move to Yangon and rent a place near Gusto. In that why you can go to school, but I’ll be around to protect you. Ti Ti, you and your family, have made me the happiest guy in the world. That isn’t an exaggeration.


PaPa Al

This was Snow’s Christmas email.

Dear PaPa Al

Is Christmas now. On Christmas day, I learned that we had not seen each other for two years. I remember I gave you a present on Christmas day. I drew a picture of you and me walking hand in hand. I miss those times. You must remember too. There are so many memories. I wondered what we were doing two years ago. We’re probably walking around. Singing a New Year song, remembering it at a restaurant. When all the problems are over, I still want to walk with you. I can assure you that the taste will always be as exciting as it was two years ago.

Take Care ❤️

This is the picture that Snow mentioned in her email.

Your English is excellent! I’m so proud of you. As for your gift, that is a treasure. It does remind me of our walking together. Do you remember sitting in the backseat of your car holding hands? We do have memories together. When I return, I’ll hug you and the rest of the family. Then we will go for a walk together…just you and me. Snow, I love you.
PaPa Al

This is a photo of Snow.

Last but not least is an email from Fatty. She refuses to call me PaPa Al. Fatty sees me as the reincarnation of Bo Bo Gyi. You decide whether Fatty is correct.

Bo Bo Gyi

Bo Bo Gyi,

 Merry Christmas Bo Bo Gyi. We ate dinner at Nyaung-Shwe Restaurants. Is was delicious 😋. We ate two plate of fish, two plate of pop, two plate of fried vegetables, two pizzas and friend photo chips 🍟. We drank some code. Then we ate some friend bananas too. When we were singing the song, we were shy Because There were a lot of people. When I was singing the song, I miss you Bo Bo Gyi. And I love you Bo Bo Gyi.



We will go to our restaurant and have the same meal you had for Christmas when I return. You should have told all the others at the restaurant that I am Bo Bo Gyi. They wouldn’t mind you and your sisters singing Auld Lang Syne. I also miss you. I tell everyone about when I visited you, and I would tickle you. You would wind up in my arms and then flutter your eyes. You are an exceptional young lady. I promise you; I’ll be back….

Bo Bo Gyi aka PaPa Al

This is a video of me making Bananas Bo Bo Gyi two years ago at our restaurant.

This video is of the girls singing Auld Lang Syne.

This video is of the girls singing Auld Lang Syne without Bo Bo Gyi. Fatty was correct. Without me there, it wasn’t the same.

This is a picture of Fatty.

Bobby Kennedy said, “The purpose of life is to contribute in some way to making things better.” Kennedy was correct. He also wrote, “Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”

It is a strange phenomenon about having a reason for being. Finding your reason for being will benefit the world, but it also benefits the person with a reason for being. This is mine.

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