One weekend while teaching at Zwekabin Myay school, the students and teachers took a day trip to nearby Taung Wine mountain. It is only 30-45 minutes away, but took much longer due to the rough dirt road we were on most of the time. As usual for school trips we took the 3-wheeler and a convoy of motorbikes. Once we left the highway the dirt road was often so rough that all of us riding the 3-wheeler had to get out and walk.
selfies with students
But we made it, without any mishaps, and gathered at the bottom where we were greeted by a few random local kids.
We climbed to the pagoda at the summit, seeing very few tourists; we counted one foreigner, besides the four of us teachers, the entire day. At the top the views were beautiful, like all the other karst peak summit views in the Hpa An area. The students took numerous selfies and posed for their new Facebook profile pictures.
We had also brought along large sacks and on the way down we all worked together to collect some of the huge quantities of trash (at least 75% of which is plastic bottles!) that litter the sides of the trail. The students quickly filled the sacks and found more among the piles of trash and began filling them, as well. They soon realized that they did not have enough hands to carry all of the bags they had filled.
It was at this point that one of our students had an idea. He taught me to say hello and thank you in Burmese and had me greet the local visitors walking down from the summit. Then he would speak to them in Burmese and tell them that if they carried a bag of trash to the bottom for us they would be able to take a picture with me.
Now, I know this sounds ridiculous. Why would anyone care about taking a picture with a bearded, sweat-soaked foreigner? I don’t know, but they do. As I mentioned in a previous post, people in Myanmar often stopped to ask if they could take pictures with us. Lines of Myanmar people have formed, waiting to take a picture with Michelle and I; no joke!
So, the idea turned out to be brilliant and countless people stopped to pose with me and then walked off carrying a bag of garbage. There were even two girls that had no camera, but were willing to participate to have their picture taken with the camera of one of our students! They were never going to see that picture, but they continued down the mountain, each holding a big dirty bag of trash out in front of themselves, away from the clean outfits they were wearing!
Once we finally arrived at the bottom of the mountain we went to the nearby monastery, washed up, and enjoyed a delicious (and free) vegetarian meal. Then we were back on the motorbikes and 3-wheeler to head to a swimming hole to rid ourselves of some of the day’s grime.