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

The Story of Colonel Tin Tut

The table was set with all kinds of special Burmese food in my honor. I ate with them. The wives had prepared special food which they ordinarily wouldn't cook, but since I was their guest of honor, they treated me with the best. I couldn't get over the Burmese hospitality, wherever I was invited it was always the same. I didn't notice this kind of hospitality in other Asian countries. After I ate their lovely food we took some group pictures and after that it was time again to visit some other friends.

The next visit was to Colonel Tin Tut's house. I met Colonel Tin Tut's family in Washington When he was the Military Attaché at the Burmese Embassy. At the Zaire Embassy which gave a party for their Armed Forces Day and Lu Lu and I were invited by our Zaire Consular who was a friend of ours. During the party he introduced us to Colonel Tin Tut and his wife. Somehow Colonel Tin Tut liked Lu Lu's openness and straightforwardness of talking right away, and we became the best of friends.

After his return to Burma he was promoted to Brigadier and stationed in the Rangoon area. He was sent to China with a Burmese delegation. During this trip to China a friend asked him to do him a favor and buy some electrical appliances which he needed for the new house he was building. As a rule the Burmese Government wants everything to be reported that has been bought overseas by their high officials. Somehow Colonel Tin Tut overlooked it and did not think anything about it since he was doing one of his military partners a favor. Somehow the Burmese Government found out about it, and since Colonel Tin Tut never reported it to the Government he was brought into court and forced to retire.

When I heard his story I felt very sorry for him and his family. I will always remember Colonel Tin Tut as an honest man, very sincere to his friends he associated with, and he loved his country and people, and was always looking out for them to do better. He was very popular with his staff. I think that within his ranks some of his associates became a little jealous with his popularity and his promotion, so they wanted him out.

Upon his return to Rangoon he had started to build a new house on Inya road. Since he was forced to retire he was not able to finish his house, because the pension he was receiving from the government was not enough. He apologized to me for the way he was living. All of them were overjoyed to see me again. When they lived in Washington his children were still small, but they had grown so much that I could hardly recognize them. The Colonel's wife told me that since he was forced to retire he stayed most of the time by himself and did a lot of meditating to Lord Buddha. She told me that things started to look better because the boys had started to help financially so that they could finish building their house.

Kaukswe is a chicken and noodle dish prepared with coconut milk. This is a favorite dish among the Burmese people. Even early in the morning I was served kaukswe for my breakfast. I'd prefer toast with eggs and ham, but that was not always available in some homes. As I left Colonel Tin Tut's house I thought about how life can change sometimes, some of us for the good and some of us for the bad. When Colonel Tin Tut lived in Washington he was driven around in the Embassy's limousine. Many nights after one of his diplomatic receptions he would drop by our apartment. We were always honored to see him. And here I was visiting him in an unfinished home, and a broken hearted man who had so much going for him, and was trying to better the living conditions of his people. Whatever happens to him, Lu Lu and I will always remember Colonel Tin Tut and his family as some of our dearest friends. I am sure that his children will rebuild the future for their parents that the Burmese Government took away from them.

From Colonel Tin Tut's house I had another short visit with a friend of mine whom I met in Washington when he was sent by the Burmese Government under a grant for a year by the U.S. Government to study population statistics. During the year he studied in the Washington D.C. area he was getting the taste of overabundance of the way of American life style. When he studied in the U.S. he bought and ate and drank to his heart's delight, as the American Government paid him a nice allowance for his studies. When we met, the first thing he talked about was that he wanted to come back to America. I told him it wasn't so easy for him to come back with his wife and four children. He took me to his office building and showed me around. He said: "look for yourself in what kind of conditions I have to work". Inside his office room the paint was peeling. It looked like nobody ever cleaned the place. There were piles of old paper all over the desks covered with dust and spider webs. It looked like to me the people who worked in the offices couldn't care less what it looked like, or they were just not used to tidy places. All around the office I could see there wasn't initiative displayed for work aptitude. Across from my friend's office was a tea house. It was in downtown Rangoon. As we were drinking our cups of tea my friend talked about the lack of attitude the Burmese Government had of improving the country's economy. I gave him a large jar of instant Maxwell coffee which he asked me to bring along. It was one of his favorite coffees when he studied in America. He told me how he missed all of this. There is a saying: if a friend is in need, you should help him. As much as I would have loved to help him, this time there was nothing I could do for him. I was a visitor of his country and I had to live by their ways and the laws they had set for their people. As I departed from my friend I knew how he loved America, at least I left him a taste by giving him this large jar of coffee. I am sure he won't share this jar with too many people.

From my friends' office I took a three wheeler taxi and sat in the back of it. I can't say it was a smooth ride, but it got me back to U San Lin's house. With all the visiting I had done and all the food I had eaten, I felt very uncomfortable that night. Sally and U San Lin told me as I was visiting my friends they had arranged a trip for the next day with Tourist Burma so that I could see some different parts of the country. We would be gone for a few days, and Sally told me to go to bed early that night as we had to get up very early in the morning.

CONTINUED: Flight to Mandalay
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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