Events of Wednesday, 20th April 2016
Once again, we were up early and, having said goodbye to some of the young Ko Dut D.I.C. staff, we drove into the village with the D.I.C. manager for breakfast featuring rice noodles at a small lean-to roadside restaurant built outside the front wall of the owner's house. In the front yard of the house, a young girl was producing fresh noodles by squeezing the hot, cooked rice paste through a perforated plate, using a large set of 'pliers'. The Burmese value reliable, fresh sources of food. Fortified by breakfast, we said our final "good byes", left Ko Dut and headed back north. The Doctor had allowed time for us to visit the important pagoda built in the sea at Khaikhami Yele Paya since Myint and Mi Mi had not previously visited. I was once again reminded of my good fortune in having much better opportunities to see the country than most Burmese, since it was my fourth visit (I'd visited before in 2012 as described here and with Dr. Hla Tun in 2014 (as described in Last day in Mon State) and in 2015 (Visit to Mon State, Myanmar (Part 4). Although, as a non-Buddhist, it does not have the same resonance for me as for the many pilgrims I saw there, I never tire of being at this very special place.
Mi Mi at Khaikhami Yele Paya.
We then continued north to Mawlamyine and the Drop In Centre at Hlaing, situated in a crowded and poor area just outside the centre of Mawlamyine. A number of collapsible shelters had been erected outside the D.I.C. building and over 300 children were seated under these shelters, waiting for us (there are over 400 children 'on the books' but there are various reasons why they are rarely all present at one time).
The 'Sky Net' television news team (cameraman and female presenter) were there and I was asked to do a short piece to camera in English. I doubt if it was used. But they then conducted an interview of over 5 minutes with Dr. Hla Tun and a similar interview with the Centre Manager.
We know that these interviews were transmitted because, back in Yangon and by chance, we saw the latter part of the programme they'd made on national television.
At Hlaing, I also saw two newspaper journalists making copious notes and taking photographs. All the school uniforms and stationery had been put ready in the new school bags, year-by-year and separately for boys and girls. There were plenty of helpers to organise everything, so I found myself handing out the bags at high speed, wittering away in English, in the hope that it helped relax the children, some of whom were clearly over-awed by the occasion. The Doctor carried out the last 20 or so distributions as, by that time, I was perspiring freely.
Jan helping with the distribution at Hlaing D.I.C.
The children changed into their uniforms inside the D.I.C., some of the younger ones with help from the staff, and then, back outside under the shelters, the Doctor made a speech of encouragement. Some of the shelters were removed to make it easier to made a 'Group Shot' before the children left.
Hlaing D.I.C. - The 'Group Shot'.
Back inside the D.I.C., the Doctor made some specific financial awards to support deserving children and a number of the D.I.C. volunteers. There are so many stories of dedication and determination. We were moved by the story of one young woman with excellent language skills who had given up her full-time job with 'Care' and now undertakes part-time work so that she can look after eleven orphans.
The young woman on the right now looks after 11 orphans in Mawlamyine.
After lunch at a cafe in Mawlamyine, we had one more distribution at the smaller centre of 'Future Generation', also in Hlaing.
Then it was back to the Care Centre in Malamyine we'd stopped at (briefly, on our first arrival) where there was time to 'shower' (Burmese-style) before another meal in Mawlamyine. Since it was a bit of a walk, I was offered a lift on a motor-cycle (pillion, side=-saddle) which included the southern end of Strand Road I'd not seen before. After the meal, I managed to walk to the Care Centre where the car took The Doctor, Myint, Mi Mi and the writer to the Bus Station so that we could catch the 8.30 p.m. bus back to Yangon.
Next post describing this trip.
All my posts on this trip can be found here.
More pictures will be posted as soon as possible.
[Post date amended to place in sequence: 1-May-2016]