Tuesday 19th January 2021

Sunday, 13th January

7:30 start this morning as Aung Thu, our trusty driver, came with Marcellinus to pick us up for our trip to Ngwe Saung beach, our well-earned day off (and actually their day off too – thank you). Just as we were leaving, Joan had filled a box with beer (1000 kyats a can, just knock on the door of Room 202!) and I reached out to take it from her and felt my back go ping! Ouch! I seem to have damaged a muscle just around my hip on the right hand side. I am ok with all movement except rising and bending down. Ibuprofen seems to be helping. And someone needs to get behind me and shove me up the step onto the minibus – no mean task, let me tell you!

We had several unsuccessful attempt at having breakfast – they took one look at us and shook their heads – but eventually discovered a tiny local cafe where the wee old man delighted in relaying our order to whoever was in the kitchen at the loudest possible volume. Here Charles, former KMSS staff member, also joined us for the day.

The journey is always quite long – around 90 mins to two hours – and always twisty and turny through the foothills between the Ayeyerwady Delta plain and the Bay of Bengal. I always, always think of my dad on this journey – that clever, musical, fiesty 22 year old, fighting his way through these jungle foothills into Burma in 1944 with V Force and losing his sight and his health.

A lovely surprise at the Aureum Palace, our five star hotel of choice, when we discovered they had lowered their day price to $20 to include lunch and $10 without. This includes the use of all facilities at the hotel and, from our perspective, is a little haven in a sea of hard work. We set ourselves up on the beach and headed for the gorgeous water (my back loved the swim) with the younger and more active members of the team playing ball on the beach and in the sea. Once I had swum, I myself was installed on a sunbed with a novel (thanks, Laura – Nora Ephron: amusing and the perfect sunbed read) and some easy listening: Annie Lennox and The Divine Comedy – bliss, bliss, bliss. I’d brought my laptop to blog but hey, reading, dozing and resting was what was required. Beer o’clock came early and Mat will regret shaking mine vigorously before giving to me – revenge will be mine :). The only downside was that lovely Andy lost a ring she was fond of in the sea and much searching did not recover it so it is consigned to the deep forever. 🙁

As we rested a wee lad came along to sell us coconut. He wielded a machete as long as his arm and we all watched while he cut it up. Marcellinus engaged him in conversation. He was 8 and had dropped out of school two years before because his mum (the lady who had tried to sell us fish a few moments earlier) has mental health problems and he has to help support her. KMSS works with an organisation which tries to help such kids but we all remarked how vulnerable he was on his own by these sunbeds occupied by foreigners who may have more sinister intentions than we have.

Lunch was quite delicious. I had an aromatic Indian-style curry and rice and Joan and Danusia had stir-fry. Kate had a gorgeous salad. Hmm. Hmm. Hmm. All beautifully served in an open-air restaurant which had only one other diner. The others had wandered to the local town to eat more simply.

And pretty soon it was time to go back to Pathein. Actually the bus journey back went quickly and seemed not quite so windy and twisty. Our plan to go the Street Kids Shelter were changed at the last minute and instead we mature women went out for beer, chips and cashew nuts while the kids went out to play! Martin set off to go to the cinema. But before all that happened, Andrea came into our room to go through her ideas for enhancing the lesson plans and going off-piste to support the students in her class with their learning more appropriately. Fabulous. How blessed we are with this hard-working and inventive team!

Work again tomorrow!

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