Andrew - I hardly slept a wink last night - so much was the generosity shown by a family that materially had so little. The parable of the widows mite comes to mind. Three years ago when we built two houses for local people in Cambodia, never did I imagine that we would visit families in neighbouring countries where conditions were worse. This was the case - the houses we built in Cambodia had brick walls. Last night I leant on the woven bamboo walls of Nyes house and I was resting on next doors TV set. During the hand-over ceremony in Cambodia I was asked to give a speech. I recall saying that although we had built the house, I was looking forward to the young couple making it a Home. Last night Karina echoed those words when she said to Mrs Nye (with interpretation) that this was such a lovely home. I know I'm laying it on thick - and this what not what the purpose of the blog was for - but I cannot stress how affected both of us have been by this. I came away shaking my head and worrying how do people survive in conditions like this in the rainy season. I guess I know the answer - It's the human spirit.
Up at 5.15am and after a swift brakfast - Power was waiting in the lobby and we took the extraordinary long drive to the airport. Farewells were said - and unlike the tears shed last time with K's father and William - a brisk handshake had to surfice. But I could not leave it there. I gave Power my favourite Ole Gunnar Solsjaer United shirt, and I took Nye aside and handed him my European Cup Final shirt for his eldest son. Somewhere in Mandalay today there is a boy walking around feeling like a king.
A short flight to He Ho airport (luckily for us the flight before us was the 9-11 flight) and after a 1 hour drive and a visit to the obligatory temple we ditched the car and took the motorised long boat to our hotel which is lovely & on stilts over the lake.
We have a new guide who is called Nan - but sometimes I call her Goldie. She is originally from a Mountain Tribe, and if she graduates from University next year ( in German of all things) she will be only the third person from her village of 400 people to have a degree. Her village had no primary school and she had the arduous trail over the mountain (often in mud) to attend school. At the age of eleven she had the additional problem of having to learn the Myanmar language ( as opposed to her local dialect) but she studied hard and attained a place at the University of Yangon which is 17 hours drive away. Her parents are illiterate, there is no telephone - and in the last 2 years has seen her parents twice. She has however managed to get a monk to obtain funding and now her village has a primary school. At the age of 26 she is seen as a spinster and she worries that the only guy her mother will accept for marriage is one who can speak the local dialect. Life expectency in these parts is around 60, and two of her uncles have died in their 40's through alcoholism, which she attributes to the working life being so tough, they make and drink their own moonshine.
On the road again (or should I say on the water now) bombing around the lake and its inlets - visited silk weaving factory, blacksmiths, cigar making, fishermans village - before returning to our lovely hotel (albeit with the slowest internet in the world ever & 3 power cuts while we have been writing this).
Luxury of a 9am start tomorrow....... so see what that brings.........