It is 11am; I have visited a pagoda, swum in the sea, met 5 of the REC teachers and eaten a fish on a stick. A BBQ fish I might add.
At 5:25 am my alarm went off. I had a breakfast of Mohinga, which I haven’t had the opportunity to taste since my teaching at Thanlyin. It reminded me of my 11 students and the ex-army monk as well as the friendly principal monk who was always encouraging me to eat more! I sat myself on the bench which wraps around the base of a large tree trunk to wait for my students arrival; today they do not have an exam as it is Full Moon Day and universities and schools have the day off.
A tuk-tuk soon arrived with 4 young men in it all waving at me. Sometimes I think the hotel staff must think it’s curious that I go out at strange times collected by a slew of mainly young men. (My female students don’t tend to ride motorcycles and so it is rare that they pick me up or drop me home.) We collected another 3 on our journey. All of these teachers are from R.E.C. One teaches Mathematics while another teaches English. They were all very friendly, but seemed quite shy and unable to understand my basic questions. I hope that as they become accustomed to my accent and more used to talking with me they will be able to access more background knowledge of English that they have simply forgotten due to not using it.
We went to a beautiful pagoda. It was more cavernous than is typical of the pagodas I’ve visited with lead-in corridors and mosaic depictions of various Myanmar pagodas around the walls inside. There were pairs of tall golden-edged windows in the typical asian winged shape and tall columns reaching for the sky. The Buddha image was very small compared with many pagodas and sat neatly in a glass box in the centre of the golden-walled building. The outside floor is tiled in a blue and white checkered pattern and is vast. In the evenings, groups of students learning English will come to the pagoda to practice their lesson outside in the shadow of the pagoda.
We then attempted to visit the Buddha Museum, but it wasn’t open. I wasn’t too shocked as it was only 8:30 am. I was assured by the students that it should be open though. They were unclear as to why it wasn’t. The tuk-tuk dropped us on the promenade which is still being constructed. One of the REC teachers said that he had spent a year in China after asking if I spoke Chinese. His English was slow with each word carefully chosen, but his vocabulary and accent were impressive.
On the beach there was a large group of boys from the university playing soccer and an equally large group of girls playing tag. The gender division was quite noticeable; of course the REC teachers wanted to play soccer and said that they would introduce me to the girls if I wished so that I could play tag with them. I declined this offer as the rules seemed a little unclear and I didn’t want to intrude on a group of perfect strangers. As a compromise the REC teacher with the best English went to get a soccer ball for our small group. He soon returned, having left his shoes as a deposit against returning the ball in one piece!
After a short dip in the ocean we squelched up the sand to the waiting tuk-tuk. The teachers were getting nervous about their exam tomorrow and wanted to go home to study some more. Of course I don’t want to interfere with their study schedule, so a fish was bought for my lunch and I was dropped off right outside the hotel.
NEH Coordinator and Teacher Trainer
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