In any family, in any culture, exists the feeling of pressure. Whether this is from a helicopter parent who means well but is misguided to the children of dependent users who try against the odds not to follow the same path or children of immigrants who walk the line between new and old, always pleasing some, never pleasing all. Even for picture-perfect families, there are hidden pressures which people conveniently crop out of the still image. Money, health and the deceptively simple act of getting along are universal pressures so it seems to me.
In many Asian cultures, there are stereotypes of strict parents and a loyalty to family which has been perhaps pushed by the wayside for individualist, capitalist societies. I would argue though that even in capitalist democracies, there is still an unspoken, purposefully ignored feeling to do what is right for the family and there is nothing all that unusual about children attending the same university as Dad or joining the family business whether they are investment bankers or plumbers. When I quizzed students in his village, they all said they wanted to marry their cousin and have children without fail. The idea of getting to 25, let alone 30 without marrying or having committed your life to the monastery is unfathomable in Myanmar.
It is normal to change jobs on a whim, to quit because of pressure or because the family disapprove of the company or because someone in your family doesn’t like someone from the family who works there. It is more normal in Myanmar to stay at home with your family than it is to live elsewhere. The family, in general, does not like when members deflect. For any reason. We know students who have gone to Yangon to work, only to return to Rakhine either because their family advised it or because, not having any family in Yangon, they were unable to forge a full life there. The family acts as the ultimate bungee rope; safe yet stifling; a constant pull as a reminder of the service they perform.
Moving from the family, living in a new village always has challenges. But in a country where this is not usual, there is little precedent over how often to call home, how often to visit and how long to stay away. A job is not family, a job won’t cushion you when you jump. We have had students move villages to escape from poverty or worse, in which case the family tries to support the venture. The underlying elasticity is strong though and pulls at each individual. We fear that if the wind is in the wrong direction, it’s going to be a sudden spring back to the family for our interns and trainees, leaving us with precious little chance to recover the progress as elastic will only bend back into shape so many times.
There is always pressure from family, born from love however misplaced or convoluted the show of love appears. It is an emotive subjective as we must include the family in our planning not only our trainees. In many ways it feels more like a marriage than a job. We are involved with the whole family, we are emotionally invested, flexible and both sides have an even footing for feedback and suggestions.
NEH Director of Studies and Teacher Trainer
Mum Visits Myanmar
Meeting with Locals
Dancing After Dinner
Building Strong Parent-Teacher Relationships
Meeting Families in Kyauk Taw
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