Thanksgiving Celebration…
In Nyaung Shwe

As America celebrated this past Thanksgiving, I wrote an essay about celebrating two Thanksgiving Days and why. I had traveled to Myanmar as a modern-day Pilgrim five years ago and again last year. Obviously, the people that I met weren’t Native Americans but people who lived in Southeast Asia. Of all the places that I have visited overseas in the past half century, Myanmar was the most rewarding. From an educational standpoint or that of a tourist, I enjoyed and benefited from both trips immensely. That being said, those benefits pale in comparison to the effect upon me personally.

At an initial level, this essay is just about my personal and life-changing events as a result of both trips. However, this essay goes far beyond me and my experiences. Allow me to tell you the backstory that changed my life. I’m doing this, because it could be potentially as much of a game-changer for you as it was for me. Therefore, the backstory is about me, but don’t write it off as just a nice, warm vignette. My experience can morph into a shared one with you. Therefore, this is the backstory.

In the past half century, I have gone to school overseas and taught overseas. I have traveled without tour guides, I have had tour guides, and I have been a tour guide. I love traveling. I am still teaching at the college level and have benefited from all the time spent outside the States. All my students, in over two decades of teaching, have heard me mention many times during a semester about traveling being the best means of learning. George Santayana warned us all, “A child educated only at school is an uneducated child.”

So, why did I want to go to Myanmar in the first place? What was it that I would learn? What would I find? The most important reason was to attempt to interview Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, often called the Lady. On both journeys to Myanmar, I failed even to contact her. Have I given up? Nope. Not at all. During winter break in December of this year, I will return and try again to sit down and talk with the Lady. To be more to the point, beyond the interview, I really want to discuss with her a couple of ideas that are floating in my mind about what I would be willing to do for Myanmar…during that trip if she would approve of my ideas.

However, having failed to meet the Lady on both occasions, I did meet a young lady by the name of Ti Ti. That meeting with Ti Ti occurred five years ago when she was nine-years-old. It was transformative for me. I discovered my granddaughter while playing Scrabble with her. During that trip, I met her younger sisters and her parents. They became my family.

Don’t write that last sentence off as a hyperbolic comment. I assure you; it isn’t. Those that have adopted children understand that, emotionally, it takes a nanosecond after picking up an infant before that child is a part of their family. After the brief moment in time, the term, adoption, is no longer relevant. That is true also for me. I view Ti Ti and her family as my family. Period.

I returned during winter break a year ago to visit them. On the evening before leaving them, we had our first Thanksgiving at the Nyaung Shwe Restaurant on December 30, 2017. It was an extremely bitter sweet time together. We laughed and talked about our time together. However, after dinner, we said good-bye…at least for the time being.

On December 30, 2018, just last week, my family celebrated our second Thanksgiving at the same restaurant.

Actually, my family sat at the same table at which we had set a year before. My family was there, but I wasn’t.

It was not only the same table, but Snow, who is sitting at the front right side of the picture, was sitting there a year ago. I was sitting next to her. I was sitting to her right where no one was sitting this time. We were talking about our fun times together. However, Snow noticed a large screen TV on the wall and started to watch it. I inadvertently mentioned something to Snow who didn’t even hear me. She was so fixated upon learning something that was on TV that she didn’t notice my comment. Everyone else in the family said if Snow gets focused on something that I was wasting my time to attempt to get her attention.

This is my family: Ko Ko, Fatty, Moh Moh are sitting on the left of this picture while Ti Ti and Snow are on the other side of the table.

Ti Ti, Snow, and Fatty are drinking my banana milkshake, since I wasn’t there. Apparently, they didn’t want it to go to waste.

What was interesting for me was that if they were a part of my family, aren’t the children that my granddaughters go to school with my extended family? That was the genesis of my forming We Are Family in Myanmar, Inc. Within a short time, I will receive from the IRS a 501(c)(3), which designates my incorporation as a not-for-profit charity. Then I can begin a fundraising drive to get $500,000. And I need to get that amount before my next winter break in December of 2019. About $400,000 will be spent on 1250 laptops for the two schools that my three granddaughters attend. The remainder will be utilized to improve the Internet reception to the two schools and pay for Internet service from a provider.

If traveling benefited me in the past half century, my two trips to Myanmar are on steroids in comparison. I’m a different cat. I mentioned how fixated Snow was while watching something on TV. She must have gotten that DNA trait from me.

Several weeks ago, I wrote an essay, The Magnificent Seven…. There are six people that I know directly or indirectly that I want to return with me to Myanmar in mid-December of this year. I am asking them to join with me as the Myanmar Magnificent Seven. Rod Stewart, Clarence Page, Jacob Soboroff, Sandy Jabeen, Marc Ramos, and Dr. Marchand have been invited to return with me to Myanmar. All of my Magnificent Seven have, in our own ways, have been interested and driven to help people and have done so all our lives.

I was reading an article recently about Congressman John Lewis. This was a quote that he made in the essay, “We have to believe that we’re one people, one family.” I called his office in Washington and spoke with one of his staff members about wanting to add Rep. Lewis to my Magnificent Seven, my dream team.

This is where you enter the picture. I am asking you to consider one or more of the following requests. My suggestion is to select all three.

1. I am asking you to contribute to the money necessary to enhance the Internet reception and purchase 1250 laptops. Consider contributing to the purchase of one or a hundred laptops and improving Internet reception.

2. My next request is to send this link, We Are Family, to ten of your friends and ask them to send it to ten of their friends…ad infinitum. Bobby Kennedy said, “Some men see things as they are and say, why; I dream things that never were and say, why not.” I am a dreamer, but my dreams will benefit my extended family in Myanmar with your help.

3. My final request is to consider returning with me to Myanmar with all the laptops for the two schools. The sooner that I raise a half million dollars, the sooner that we can go to Myanmar and see where your investment in laptops will benefit the education of the next generation.

Myanmar is a developing country. I know of no other means available to Myanmar to enter the 21st century in an attempt to move toward a developed nation than by utilizing the Internet as an educational tool.

Do you see any type of computer in this classroom where two of my grandchildren attend?

What about this classroom?

These children are the leaders of the next generation in Myanmar. They will succeed with a little help from the Magnificent Seven. However, what I need is to expand the Magnificent Seven to dozens upon dozens of additional caring people. Remember, it is in giving that we get.

Besides helping young students, you might discover some of your children or grandchildren in Myanmar. It radically changed my Weltanschauung. As I said, I’m a different cat because of my family in Taunggyi, Myanmar. Those two trips to Myanmar were the best of times for me, and they may be for you. If you have any questions, just email me at I expect that I will receive my 501(c)(3) as a not-for-profit charity in a few weeks. In the meantime, I would be happy to talk with you about the trip and answer any questions that you might have.