Ti Ti, the Teacher
Of Her Classmates and Me

This essay contains a myriad of positive points about Ti Ti. We met nearly a decade ago at her home near Inle Lake, Myanmar. It was a chance encounter. She was home during winter break. Moh Moh was my tour guide and had to pick up my itinerary after leaving Inle Lake. She said it would only take a couple of minutes, but I could meet Ti Ti while there. We walked into their living room and were greeted by a cute nine-year-old kid. “Hi! My name is Ti Ti. Do you want to play some games?”

Ti Ti asked whether I knew how to play Scrabble. I responded that I would beat her at Scrabble. She got a pad of paper, wrote down a word, and handed it to me. I must have looked bewildered. She responded by saying, “I thought you knew how to play Scrabble.” She seized that teaching moment and showed me how to play the game. Each time we added a word, Ti Ti kept score on the margin of the pad.

After an hour of playing, Ti Ti added up the score, and she had beat me. She was ecstatic. “I knew that I could beat you.” I responded to her sheer joy by putting my finger in her face and said, “Don’t you ever forget this. You beat me in my game, in my language, and in your country.”

Those couple of minutes lasted nearly an hour while we played Scrabble on their living room floor. Talk about a fortuitous encounter. Ti Ti became the link between her family in Myanmar and my family in the States. That was the first of three journeys to Myanmar. Ti Ti hasn’t changed in all those years except that she isn’t the cute young kid but a beautiful young lady.

Ti Ti is now in her second year at Gusto University. In her first year, she was elected her class president and is still the class president. Her major is computer technology. In truth, you could name any major, and Ti Ti would excel in that subject.

However, Ti Ti is still into teaching. This is a video of Ti Ti teaching English to fellow students. If I were a student at Gusto, I would want her to help me learn. Watch this video.

It is exactly like the two of us playing Scrabble. Ti Ti loves teaching. Her sheer energy fascinates me. She loved teaching PaPa Al how to play Scrabble and her classmates English.

What is even more captivating is it is done during COVID-19. She is taking her classes online. She hasn’t even visited Gusto University in Yangon. Beyond the coronavirus issue, you couldn’t have known that the military seized power in a coup d'état. Despite COVID and the coup, Ti Ti’s drive to learn and teach continues as if her world isn’t affected.

This is an interesting addendum. You recall the story of Ti Ti and me playing Scrabble on my first trip. On the second visit, I brought Ti Ti and her family a Scrabble game, which just happened to be sitting on the table where Ti Ti was doing some homework. We will play Scrabble again when I can enter Myanmar for another visit.