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Fifty Years of My Life (1939 - 1990)
A Memoir by Jeff R. Noordermeer

Manual cultivation methods

The drive to U San Lin's house in Rangoon was very colorful. We stopped at Sally's brother's house and had dinner together. After dinner we went to the U San Lin's home where I would be a guest for a week. My guest room was very nice with my own large bathroom. I noticed on their premises in back of their house was a large well-built bamboo house. Sally told me that the people who worked for her lived there. The U San Lins had their own driver, cook, and gardener. Sally told me that those people who worked for her were just like her own family. She said they all had been working for the family for years. They all live on their family premises, and even when they retire they will get a pension and can live on the premises forever. When I was at Sally's brother's house for dinner I asked the cook how many years he was working for sally's brother, he told me for more than 26 years. I could tell the people who worked in the house were very happy.

Since the Burmese Government only issued seven day visas for foreign tourists, Sally made several travel arrangements with Tourist Burma, so that I could see some different places of the country. I arrived in Burma on Sunday afternoon, and the next day the driver took U San Lin, Sally and me for a ride to the town of Sabudoung where Lu Lu's son lived. It was the first visit for all of us. Sabudoung is a very small village located about 50 miles from Rangoon. Most people who live there are small operating farmers. The ride to Sabudoung is very picturesque. It was the harvest season of the rice and many people were working out in the fields. The work is done all manually. You don't see any cutting machines at all. Everything is done by hard hand labor. The ox-carts are still doing the same job as 50 years ago. Modernization in agriculture is not noticeable in this part of the world at all. Everything moves along but at a very slow pace. Nobody seems to be in a hurry, what doesn't get finished today will be left for tomorrow. Their philosophy of life is so different than what I am used to. Going along the countrisid we stopped many times so I could take pictures of all the interesting countryside scenery. Going through the small villages I noticed that most of them had no signs or markings. To find Sabudoung we had to stop several times and ask the local people how far we had to drive yet. Some people would say go two miles, others would say you are too far already. We knew that we were not that far away from the village anymore.

We were driving on a very narrow road and on both sides I could see rice paddies for miles. Two cars could hardly pass each other. I didn't see a car at all, most of the ox-carts would pass us and they were very kind to move over into the rice fields to let us pass on the road. At one spot of the road a large buffalo was taking a rest and we were not able to pass him. It took us a little while to get him off the road. He looked at me like he wanted to say, "you don't belong here, why should I move for you?" There were many buffalos grazing around the rice paddy fields. It was the dry season and most of the rice was taken in to be sold. You could tell by the rice paddies as all of them were very dry, except for some spots but they were nothing but mud holes. Some channels were deeper than others and had buffaloes in them to cool themselves from the hot sun. With so many buffalos grazing all over those rice paddies I wondered how the owner of the farm could tell which buffalo was his. The driver told me before night time each buffalo would walk back to his own farm. I saw some small children sitting on top of some buffalos and hitting them with a little stick, directing them back to them farm where they belong. If you look very closely, the buffalo is a beautiful looking animal with those large horns in front. For the people in this part of the world the buffalo is a tractor without gasoline.

As we were moving along through this beautiful part of the country, far back I could see mountains with white pagodas.

On a little side road U San Lin noticed two Burmese who looked like Karens. The majority of Burmese people who lived in Sabudoung were Karens. The Karen people in Burma are one of the ethnic minority groups. No less than 67 separate indigenous racial groups have been identified in Burma, not including the various Indians, Chinese and Europeans who make the country their home. There are about 242 separate languages and dialects spoken. All of Lu Lu's family were Karens. Most of the Karen people are very short and stocky, and have wide cheekbones. That's why V San Lin recognized those two Burmese right away. We asked them if they knew Lu Lu's son, Honey, and sure enough they told us where he lived. It was the village they just came from. We parked our car on the side of the road and walked towards the village. You couldn't see the village from the road because in front of it were all kinds of trees and green bushes. All the houses in the village were built from bamboo and about three feet high from the ground. We had to take a long walk through the village on dusty walking paths. It's the dry season and everything is very dry and dusty. After a long walk we finally reached Honey's house. What a transition from my world to his, a real Karen village with all bamboo houses with pigs and chickens running everywhere. When I entered Honey's house, he and his wife and three children were sitting on a bamboo mat on the floor. Some villagers had Honey already informed that I was coming. It surprised me without any modern communications how the news gets around real quick in these villages. I was overjoyed seeing them, but the contrast of the different lifestyles and the thought that it should have been Lu Lu who should have visited them instead of me made me feel so emotional that I openly cried. I went a little back and shed my tears for a little while until I had control over myself again.


CONTINUED: Far away from civilization
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© Copyright  - Antonio Zamora



  Contents:
- Foreword
- Old Rotterdam
- World War II
- After the War
- Coming to America
- Washington, D.C.
- Southeast Asia
- Philosophy of Life

- Book Index