Category: Myanmar, 2013

Kds, Hope and Faith

January 18

Another great buffet breakfast at the hotel, then off to Blossom Nursery School. Thirty or so tots are engaged lovingly and enthusiastically by two young teachers. Many of the children come from disadvantaged families. Hillary, there to observe with us, jumps in fully participating with the young children in a delightful way.






We drive to the offices of Hope International, an NGO engaged in reconciling conflicting groups in trouble areas of Myanmar by humanizing all elements. We are hosted by Maung Hla Thaung, a large man with a loud voice and an animated face with an infectious smile. He is originally (and still) a talented carpenter/wood worker. In a self-effacing way, he talks about work he does in a few small, rural villages in the north of the country. He brings a small number of people in to Yangon for training here on leadership and related matters. He is quite upbeat, suggesting that relations between people there are not as bad as the press portrays them and holding out hope that common ground may be found. Interestingly, he sees little difference in the situation under the new leadership in the country.


We ride with Maung Hla Thaung to a house that he designed for a wealthy friend. He is not a certified architect, but has very strong views on environmentally sound architecture. He is far more concerned with the interior of the house, the floor plan, than the exterior and insists on interviewing all family members about their prospective uses of the house. He will build only utilizing recycled materials. He has designed all of the furniture in the house he takes us to see, as well as the house itself. A portion of the house involving a swimming pool and deck spaces, is quasi-public, open to use by friends of the owner at will and without notification to him. The entire house, including all of the furniture, done of recycled teak and different types of brick is quite spectacular, though the owners will win no neatness awards from House Beautiful. We are convinced to stay for a light lunch, which turns out to be rather elaborate, prepared by servants. We leave without seeing any family members.



We drop off Maung Hla Thaung and drive to Mesmeah Yeshua Synagogue, which under the British in the 19th century had some 2500 members, now down to about 20. We are shown around by Sammy Samuels, a Burmese who lives in New York and runs Shalom Tours to Myanmar. He is an engaging and welcoming young man, who shows us around the Sephardic synagogue, with its two silver-clad torahs. Recent group visits, one including the President of Brandeis last week, have Sammy very energized and he tells us about an event planned at Yangon University on Holocaust Memorial Day on Jan 28, which Carol and I may try to attend. Dotty has joined us at the synagogue and is quite interested in having her students attend. The visit to the synagogue proves far more interesting than I’d anticipated. We say our goodbyes to Dotty, make a contribution to the synagogue and head back to our hotel, where we lounge by the pool, have a drink and try to prepare for a very early departure to Mandalay tomorrow.



Our driver picks us up and drives us to The Strand Hotel, for drinks with Joe and Cathy Feldman, Chicago friends who have been touring Myanmar. Moe’s cousins, Peggy and Gary from Las Vegas, were also in town and came up to the Feldmans’ room for some wine. We then went down to the informal restaurant in The Strand for dinner and to exchange travel stories. The Strand is a good old world hotel, but we are very happy to be staying at the Governor’s Residence to which we returned before 10 PM.

1 comment to Kds, Hope and Faith

  • leslie

    who would know there was a synagogue in Burma????amazing. we have seen them around the world. this is beautiful…Les

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