“There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

Thursday, September 21, 2006


I caught two of my students cheating in a test this morning. I feel a bit bad for failing them and making them contact their parents, but it was necessary, and certainly followed the rules. There are consequences to things like that, and many of these kids need to recognize them. I'm sure they are not the only ones, but to accuse, you need strong evidence. Perhaps this'll make them all wake up a bit.

In some cultures (I remember it was like that in Morocco), it doesn't matter how you got your grade, so long as you didn't get caught. I totally disagree with that, but it really is the value structure in many places, including here. I was reading yesterday that over 50% of graduate business students (which was the worst) admit to cheating. When asked why, they said that it would continue into their career because they thought it's okay to cheat in business to get the deal done. That is so wrong, but it is such a hard thing to change because it really is human nature.

I am not perfect, I know that, and I've made mistakes in my life and done things that are wrong, and that I knew were wrong. However, I try not to! I even feel quite guilty about some things I've done still! And when caught I absolutely accept the consequences--and most of all learn from it! Someone caught me shoplifting when I was around 12, and thankfully, no lasting consequences arose from it--but I have never even THOUGHT of doing it since. I tell you it just isn't worth it. I'm not trying to preach... I just want to feel a little bit less bad for confronting these kids. I know I'm right and I don't want to feel bad, but I do.

Monday, September 18, 2006

I'm back

So I got through today... don't know if it's just today or everyday now... things usually happen that way. Anyway, what the hell have I been doing this past month? No emailing, that's for sure. I've fallen off the WWW planet doing all my activities. I just talked to my dad tonight and he asked me what's up, but I can never remember when you ask me... I have to stare at a blank wall for a while to remember.

So after some deep thought (or not so deep, but certainly a ferret through my memory), here's what I've been up to. I started coaching the high school soccer girls team. They're lots of fun but I still feel a bit lost as a coach. Still, I'm very good at telling others how to do things (looking out is so much easier than looking in!) and they were the champions before (not very hard to do with only 2 opponents) so things might just work out okay. I have also been eating out lots... there are just so many fantastic restaurants in Yangon and its so cheap. We had a couple of birthday parties, too! I did a presentation of my Romania photos to the IFG woman's group here. Umm... what else? I play touch rugby every other weekend, and I did the Hash House Harrier's run a couple of times.

I sewed a funky shirt last Monday, after giving my tailor a whole lot to create with. I bought a glitzy new ring - my first ever with gems, but its ostentatious enough that perhaps it might still be funky. See the pic of my ring!!

My big thing right now though was my application to do a Graduate Diploma in Education through a Uni in Oz... that way I pay local rates (yay! cheap) but still get to earn while I learn. I have sent it away and am now awaiting an offer (cross fingers!). I went to Shwedagon one lovely morning, and have hung out with our cool group of new teachers. Took my photos in today to be developped (that's everything digital from since before the summer). There were originally 1000+ pictures, but that was a bit frightening, so cut it down to only (ONLY!) 600 pics. And to develop all of that? $60. This is such a fantastic place to be! In that area, I'm also in charge of preparing a calender to sell to raise money for the IFG... it's going to be great.

Anyway, so that's what I've been up to.

Thursday, September 07, 2006


My lovely cook, Sabai, just came to me right now to ask for an advance of next week’s pay (around $7.50 for 3 part-days’ work—quite a good salary for here) because her daughter is in hospital with some kind of mosquito-spread spots.

It caused a cacophony of emotions to erupt inside me, many of which I am ashamed of. My first thoughts were defensive, along the lines of why is it my problem? While I never actually thought that, I was very selfish. I kept thinking about what a responsibility it is to employ someone, and how when you employ one, you employ their whole family, and you become responsible to them in many ways. I don’t like that responsibility. I want to be only responsible to myself, and anyone else relying on me like that, so utterly, makes me uneasy.

I had absolutely no problem advancing her pay for her, but the thought did flit through my mind that there might be future expenses and perhaps I would have to pay for those or perhaps next week she would need another advance or loan or more, and it would escalate into me having paid, and not getting what I paid for. Or maybe I don’t like seeing me as the money bag, of course (I can just see my parents smiling because now I’m in their shoes, although family is very different). I rationalized this pessimistic side of me down and reminded myself how lovely Sabai is, and how she wouldn’t ask for more than she needed—and honestly, how much is it really! She has been going through this all week, and didn’t say anything until today (I wished she had—I honestly would have really loved to have given her a paid day off instead of eating (or feeling guilty about throwing away) the enormous piles of food I get) but she must have been very needy to have asked at all. I thought about how I would act in that situation, and I really respect that she did her best and didn’t ask for help (Drew heard me going on about how hard it is for me to ever ask for help!) but I’m so torn as to whether I consider it a weakness to ask for help at all—isn’t that an awful thing to say!

Ironically, this time last month I was fretting over whether to cancel the third day that Sabai works for me because I just can’t eat all the food that she prepares for me, but of course, I haven’t because of that same responsibility to her and that she needs the salary that I pay.

I felt angry at Myanmar for putting its people in such a desperate situation that there is nothing for them to do in emergencies like this. Then I thought of the American medical system and how it really wouldn’t help you either. Then I thought of the wonderful collection that my friends did for our dear George (www.geocities.com/natalyamarquand/george.html), who passed away from a leukemia operation. It made me happy to think of the generosity of the human race (and also guilty because so often I am selfish and think only of myself).

I thought repeatedly of how I should offer Sabai some kind of gift as assistance, some money to help pay, but I’m so wary of being taken for granted in the future that I didn’t. I thought I could term it as a bonus, but she’s only been working for me for a month! I would love to help her out, but I’m held back because she hasn’t asked for my help (after all my BS about not respecting it!), and by what she might think of me (though, why should that matter), and… I don’t know. I’m just reluctant (or selfish). I want to jump up and write in our little notebook that the money is a gift, but I don’t. Am I a horrible person? Listen to all my excuses, and none of them really hold merit!

Sitting on the table in front of me is the shopping I just brought home. I went out especially to get 2 shirts I saw last week (and came home with 4!). Each shirt cost around $9, and I just feel wretched because each shirt is more than Sabai’s weekly salary! I am “rich” and can afford it (well, I shouldn’t really have considering all my upcoming expenses), but here my “extravagance” is put into perspective. I want to go around my house collecting all the unnecessary, excessive items (and there are many) and give them to Sabai to sell or use (perhaps I am rationalizing that then at least she would earn it?), but I have been cleaning a bit lately so don’t readily find anything. I don’t like how I am so materialistic!

So basically I’m feeling guilty for earning more than she does and living an easier life. I’m feeling guilty because I’m not jumping up and down to help her in any way she needs. I’m feeling guilty for not offering her more. I know that in her shoes I would be reluctant to ask, but truly, despite all my rantings, I am very willing to help her if she needs it. I have adopted and become responsible for her and her family after all, no matter how much I might dislike that fact.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Arabic Script t-shirt

I hate hypocrites. I think it’s absolutely disgusting that this man had to go through this! I know that there are two sides to every story, but there was absolutely no reason for this to happen. At least I don’t live in the only place that rights are violated!