Today marks the 17th day that I have been in Mandalay, Myanmar. It is a stunning country both visually and culturally. The view from the plane upon decent into Myanmar was of a very flat landscape marked with squares of agriculture, primarily rice, and a few distant hills shrouded in mist.
Debarking from the plane onto the tarmac, I was enveloped by a wet and hot blanket. The tempurature was 106 F the day I arrived and the humidity gracefully guided my excited body from its airplane, air conditioned chill into a dripping and roasting slumber. At first it felt great, but slowly it became a bit oppressive.
After customs we were greeted by our Assistant Teachers and whisked away in the school bus to our new home and school 45 minutes away.
The population of Mandalay is about 1 million people. It still has many growing pains and has both extreme wealth and poverty, nestled tightly together. It really feels as if one couldn’t do without the other. The streets ebb and flow. It is hard to explain how one moves down the road. When bicycling along, sometimes it feels as if every one is coming at me, on my side of the street. Then there are the cars and motorbikes zipping perpendicular to me from side streets. There are few stop lights. When you come across one everyone pretty much obeys. But they are few and so it is really up to you to decide the direction you want to go and when. You discover the rythm and flow pretty quickly and it becomes actually fun.
Smiles. I haven’t seen so many people, so happy and with ready and willing smiles, in a very long time. There are few foreigners here and the people, of all ages, seem genuinely happy if you take the time to smile or say hello in any way.
After a week of training and getting our classrooms decorated and lesson plans made, we started school last Monday. I have 26 adorable children. Most are eager to learn and do right, some are a bit more wiggly and talkative. But for the most part, they are wonderful and we finished the week with good cheer, rules and behaviors learned, new math, science, language arts and social studies concepts practiced and happy students heading home with library books to read and report on.
With that I will sign off and write again soon!