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

No toilet facilities in the Burmese village

I had a long talk with minister Saw Samuel in Honey's house, and in the meantime the house was filled with children from the village. They all wanted to know who I was and where I came from. Through minister Saw Samuel's interpretation I told the children about my plane flight, how high it flew and how it looked inside and what we did during our trip. With great interest the children were listening. Saw Samuel asked me to go to their little church as there was a service going on. An old Karen minister was preaching some stories from the bible. When I walked in everybody's attention went to my corner. I am sure they all wanted to know who this white man was who came to their church service. It was a typical village church. The roof and floor were built with several cooling fans. Not every house in this village had electricity. Honey had an electric wire going into his house. Lu Lu had sent his wife an electric sewing machine a few years ago.

For such a small church they had a large choir. Karen people love to sing and play all kinds of musical instruments. After the church service I took some group pictures with the church members, and then went sightseeing around the village. The people are very shy and when they see me approach their house they quickly run inside. I saw many of the women working in the fields and gardens. Some of the men were trying to catch some fish in the muddy water channels of the rice paddies. The man has a self-made fish net and stands up to his waist in this muddy water and pushes this net in front of him through this muddy water. There are plenty of snakes and leeches in those waters. Somehow it doesn't bother the man who is fishing. I asked him how many fish he was trying to catch, he said if he's able to catch about eight small catfish, he'd be happy for the day. He said that would be enough for his family to eat with the rice for several days. As I was watching he caught three small catfish. The fish is very dark and a lot smaller than our catfish we are used to in the Western world. I would have never set a foot in that water. As I was watching, the man got a leech on his back. Those leeches are real blood suckers.

Rice Paddies 

Outside the village was a big pond. Honey told me that they stocked Japanese carp in there for their own use. The pond was also used of having your daily bath. As I was walking around the pond several men were having a bath. The soap they were using was a type of a clay stone. Somehow it did the same job as the fancy soap we use. After my sightseeing tour through the village I went back to Honey's house as the sun became very hot. It amazed me as primitive as the houses are built in this village, how cool they are inside. Honey heated some hot water on his wood stove and served some hot tea.

Toilet facilities are not available at all around the house. When I asked where the toilet was, they all started to laugh. Honey told me to follow him. He took me all the way to the back yard where there was a cluster of banana trees and he told me that was the toilet place. I was a little bit embarrassed because there were several women working around in other yards. I told Honey about it and he started to shout something in his language, and as I could make out with a little protest the women left for a few minutes. There are some strange habits you have to get used to.

At night time U sari Lin and Sally and the chauffeur picked me up again. Before I left I took pictures with Honey's family so that I could show them to Lu Lu on my trip back to Singapore. It was very difficult for me to say goodbye to Honey and his family and all those lovely people I met in this little village. You can sense the love and hospitality those people have. Their lifestyle is so simple and they have so little in life, yet it's a sharing society and they are satisfied with the life they live. Those people always have a smile on their faces. They work together and help each other. They believe in the strong powers which come from heaven. In this village were Christians, Buddhist and Spirit House believers, yet all of them did the same thing at the end of a hard day's work by saying their prayers or meditations, or giving their offerings to a Spirit House, to someone above who looks after all his children.

CONTINUED: Burmese Hospitality
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© Copyright  - Antonio Zamora

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

- Book Index