Problems Are Catalysts for Change
But It Is Up to You

I came back from my third sojourn to Myanmar in early January this year. On each of my previous returns, I was excited about visiting Myanmar. I was ecstatic when I returned less than a year ago. As a family, we went on a tour together. I wanted to revisit Yangon, Bagan, Inle Lake, and Mt. Popa. However, Moh Moh and Ko Ko had been my tour guides on my previous two journeys, and they planned the rest of the trip. We went on a balloon ride over Bagan and an elephant ride in Myanmar’s version of the Alps. In addition, we went to Loikaw and visited the Taung Kwe Pagoda. We also traveled to Pindaya Cave, Set Set Yo village, and the list goes on and on.

It was exciting, but I had to leave my family. I returned to the States and got ready for teaching. However, words can’t express the euphoria that encompassed me. I spent nearly a month with my family and saw fascinating sites most of which hardly any American had ever seen. We were already planning our next tour.

At home, I settled into my normal routine of teaching, which didn’t last long. Two things occurred on my birthday on January 20th. I was obviously aware of my birthday, but the gamechanger about which I wasn’t aware was that America recorded its first case of coronavirus. The coronavirus changed America and the rest of the world.

Obviously, it also changed my family’s world in Myanmar. COVID-19 stopped tourism completely everywhere. My children, Moh Moh and Ko Ko, who are the parents of Ti Ti, Snow, and Fatty, my three granddaughters, faced a major problem. It would be a long time before tourism returned to Myanmar.

In my previous essay, I wrote about Kierkegaard’s philosophical treatise, Either/Or. Moh Moh and Ko Ko had their version of either/or. Either they could sit and complain about COVID-19 or act.

They had taught English as a second language during the off-season of tourism. In fact, I brought them teaching material from Moraine Valley Community College where I teach on my last trip. These are some of the materials that I took to Myanmar. Ginger said, “What’s with all this material? I already speak English.”

“I have English down.”

COVID-19 was a catalyst for change. What was once an off-season job is now an all year job. Ko Ko and Moh Moh have pushed the envelope even further. They are explaining their blue house. I loved the blue house. I played games with my grandchildren in their living room.

Ti Ti mystified me with her magic tricks.

So, Moh Moh and Ko Ko expanded teaching to an all year job. That was phase one. The next phase was to add onto their home. This is the beginning of the construction of the educational wing of the blue house.

I am proud of Ko Ko and Moh Moh for how they dealt with a problem. Randy Pausch in his Last Lecture said, “We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the game.” They know how to play the game. However, teaching English will not only be onsite but also online.

And guess who is teaching English online? Ti Ti.

Moh Moh and Ko Ko know that problems, if faced, are catalysts for change. When I return for another visit, I won’t recognize their blue house. It will take me awhile to get used to the blue house’s new look. Nonetheless, my family will have remained the same family. We will have all grown older, but our family remains.