Thar Paung Part I
Tuesday morning I joined our school partner, May Hta Hla, founder of Helping the Burmese Delta (HTBD), and Kyaw Htoo Aung, local Burmese man of many talents, for the trek down south to EE’s new school. Turns out Kyaw Htoo and I met each other here a couple of years ago. He was introduced to me by one of Bainbridge Island’s retired eye surgeons. Kyaw Htoo provides logistics for the surgeons visiting annually to conduct cataract surgeries for the poor in Mandalay. We had thought he might be our ‘money man’ – helping EE transfer funds into the country before wire transfers were possible. Now, Kyaw Htoo is helping HTBD with construction of a proper library and computer room at their high school on the east side of the Delta. I don’t really believe in coincidences, but I do believe this is a very small world! This was just another example. The drive to the jetty took 5 hours – long, straight 2-lane roads through beautiful flat rural lands with rice paddies a plenty. Once at the jetty, we transferred to a small, flat bottom boat for the remaining 1½ hours of the journey. The rest of the group of 15 had head out earlier to see a graduation ceremony for young villagers recently trained to be health workers via HTBD.
The water is now low in the channels, but starting to slowly rise again. This area is flooded a good 6 months of the year. Skimming through canals filled with hyacinth and views of homes, fishermen, and other boat transports. Yangon and its crowded streets and traffic left behind in the morning was a world forgotten. We met up with the rest of the group at the site of HTBD’s second school being built in the Thar Paung region – this in addition to their 25 primary schools and 1 high school already constructed on the Bogale side. By the time we left for our return boat journey, dusk had settled in. Taking a short cut route via a smaller canal proved to be quite the adventure. The water was so low (only knee deep) and it was so dark that our boat carrying a group of 10 got stuck sideways 3 times. Our young strong boat crew, one at each end of the boat, punted and pushed until we were cleared to move on. Being stuck in a canal in the dark with no outside connectivity should have been unnerving. But with amazing fire flies lighting up each side of the canal and a bounty of stars overhead, it was an adventure to remember. And this was just Part I of the Thar Paung trek.