Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Children of Kalaw

As promised in my previous post, here is a collection of shots of the children we ran into on our first trek. Most of them provided a stark contrast to many of the kids we had seen in Ha Giang, where vacant stares greeted us just as often as smiles. The kids here were a riot, constantly laughing, shouting 'mingalaba' (the beautiful Burmese greeting) and even blowing the occasional kiss. They had no qualms being in front of a lens, which is great because I'm generally a bit squeamish about sticking my camera in people's faces. Their happiness was infectious. As our guide, July, explained later that day, even though the people of this area may not own much by monetary standards, they are happy because they have everything they really need: land, family, a climate that lets them grow whatever they could possibly want to eat, etc.

This guy must have recently hit his head on something.

A little farther on we ran into the two troublemakers shown in the next picture, who were the nearest thing I've ever seen to real-life versions of minions, the bumbling yellow creatures from Despicable Me. (For those of you who haven't seen the movie, here.) They were wantonly destructive - hurling rocks into a monastery as July showed us around the inside; clumsy - the kid on the left almost faceplanted into that wall; and playfully violent - my legs were repeatedly punched, and they tried to steal my shoes. They saved the best for when we left: they turned their backs to us, pretended to pull their pants down, and stuck their butts out while shouting "tata!" and then making a loud fart sound. I was dying from laughter.



The kids below were in the middle of a break from school. I was happy to see that boys and girls are pretty much the same no matter where you are in the world: the boys were rolling around in a pile of dirt, killing bees with their shoes, while the spotlessly clean girls looked on with disdain from the windows of their school. This group of boys also said goodbye by shouting 'tata!' and making fart sounds. Utterly hilarious.

pals
This kid has seen some shit in his days. He was the only one we couldn't get to smile.
Here you can see the distinctive thanaka, the trademark cosmetic paste that most females in Myanmar apply to their faces. Thanaka provides a cooling sensation and also helps protect the skin from sunburn. It is also thought to promote smooth skin. It is arguably the most noticeable trait of the Burmese people, and every individual seems to have their own preferred design. It is made from tree bark and applied on a daily basis.


Finally, we come to a different school. The principal invited us in, and this gave us a direct look at how poor Myanmar's education system is. In this one small building three separate classes were being held: one for middle school kids, one for grade school, and the last for kindergarten. The three sections were separated by blackboards, and with each group shouting out different memorized grammar to their respective teacher we couldn't figure out how anybody was learning anything. It seemed that some English was being taught, but the phrases written on the boards by the teachers were full of glaring grammatical mistakes. Classrooms at Vietnamese public schools are horribly overcrowded, but at least everybody in the room is in the same grade.


Next up: another trek!

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