On Sunday we met Win Maung Thein’s family. Thaw Thaw, Khaing’s brother, arranged for us to visit their home. We had some gifts for them from Win. We hailed 3 taxis because by now there were 2 of us + 6 Allens + 4 boys from Khaing’s family.
Traffic in Yangon is not what you would expect. Nobody is allowed to ride bicyles or motor bikes in the city centre. Recently the government loosened the law on import of cars, which had previously been very tightly controlled. So Yangon has become one huge traffic jam at certain points of the day. Sunday afternoon at 3pm was one of those times. I was in the car with Seth and 2 of Khaing’s relatives. I had started to cough because of the strong diesel fumes from all the cars around. “THIS IS THE GREATEST TRAFFIC JAM IN YANGON!,” said Thaw Thaw. It surely was. It was horrible and took us over an hour to go to Win Maung Thein’s home – a journey that could take less than 20 mins at another time of day.
We drew up to a lovely white and green house and were welcomed in SO warmly by Win’s brother, father, mother, nephew, aunty and other relatives. We had asked Htoo Htoo to phone and say we didn’t want food because there was a lot of us. No chance! There were 2 rows of chairs set out for us, which was great because I HATE sitting on floors. Cold cans of coke (who said you can’t get it in Burma?) and lovely red and normal bananas. Bananas taste better here than they ever do in UK. Football on the TV set David off on a long discussion about, “What’s the football team in Yangon, Mandalay, Bagan, Pegu etc called!” He is a hoot and like his daughter Livvy fills those awkward silences beautifully, which I really appreciated, cos it’s usually down to me.
Around the top of the walls in the living room area were family photos. Win Maung Thein at his Newbattle Abbey graduation and surprisingly a photo of Win with Geoff and I on both sides of him at his Newbattle graduation. It’s utterly humbling to know how much our support of our Burmese students studying in Scotland means to their families. We do so little for them but to the families, it’s so reassuring to know that the guys (and one woman)are connected with Scottish families.
Sein, Win’s nephew, spoke fantastic English and having finished 2 years of a degree course in Singapore, he hopes to complete the last 2 years of his studies in Glasgow University. He had a conditional offer, depending on his English exam, has achieved what is necessary but we are so cynical about the UK offering visas to Burmese students….. It would be lovely to welcome another Burmese young man to Scotland. Fingers crossed.
Sein explained that the family were so appreciative of us all taking good care of Win Maung Thein and they wanted to take us to a restaurant that served Burmese and Western food for tea. Refusal would have caused offence, yet we feel so bad that they had to feed 10 or 11 of us. Off we set in taxis again for a lovely meal, paid for by Win’s family. We chatted and thanked them profusely then said bye.
On Tuesday night, Win’s family phoned our hotel and said they were coming into give us a gift. Father, mother, brother, sister and nephew came to the hotel with a HUGE gilt framed mosaic of the boats on Kandawgyi Lake. It’s simply beautiful and so generous of them. It shall have pride of place in our home. We’ll post a photo of it later. We’re in Bangkok on our way home now and have dismantled it for transit.
See how alike Win’s brother is to Win with his great smile and strong hair.