This essay is one of those times that I want to get all my cards on the table. I love my family in Myanmar. However, there are times that Moh Moh, the mother of my three granddaughters, and I have our disagreements. Okay, arguments would be a better term.
Several years ago, Moh Moh emailed about various things that my family was doing. In passing, she mentioned that Ti Ti would be graduating from high school in a year and a half. Her comment didn’t make sense. A year and a half from that email, Ti Ti would be between tenth and eleventh grade. So, I asked Moh Moh.
In Myanmar, what we call tenth grade is their last year in high school. When Moh Moh told me that, I asked what Ti Ti would be doing after high school. Moh Moh replied that she would get a job and start working.
When I read that comment from Moh Moh, it bothered me, but I didn’t tell Moh Moh what I thought. Instead of offending her, I did a video for Ti Ti. I made a deal with my granddaughter. Ti Ti would go to college on my dime if she told me what she wanted to do after graduating from college. Ti Ti wrote back that she wanted to make Myanmar a better place in which to live. She was twelve or thirteen at that time.
This is a picture of Ti Ti at her high school’s award ceremony. She won the award for best in math in Shan State.
Two years ago, I got honest with Moh Moh and told her my response to Ti Ti going to work after high school. We were on our family tour, and, after dinner one evening, I told her my thought about Ti Ti’s post-high school work life. I said what I thought to Moh Moh, politely, “Over my dead body, she is going to go to work.”
By that time, we all laughed about our disagreement. There have been other times when we have disagreed over other various items. However, Moh Moh and I exchanged emails a couple weeks ago. This time was an exact parallel to Ti Ti’s going to work after finishing high school. I had asked about Ti Ti’s schedule at Gusto. I didn’t understand Myanmar’s collegiate timeline. When we go to college in the States, it is a four-year education starting with the freshman year and ending in the senior year.
In Myanmar, it is different. Moh Moh said that Ti Ti’s first year is called the foundation year, the following year is called the first year. After Ti Ti’s second year, Moh Moh said that she would get her diploma. I was affected by that email, exactly like Moh Moh writing that Ti Ti would go to work after high school. Therefore, I am writing this letter to Ti Ti.
Dear Ti Ti,
I miss being with you and your family. I was the luckiest guy in the world when we first met. You beat me at Scrabble, but I discovered my family due to you.
Now, you know how your mother and I argue about things like you going to work after high school. In response to that, I made you a deal about going to college. From the time that we played Scrabble, it was evident that you are an extremely gifted person.
I have maintained for years that you got a great deal of your IQ and good looks from my side of the family. Don’t mention that to your parents; I don’t want to hurt their feelings.
You have a reason for going to college, which is to make Myanmar a better country. However, I have reasons for you going to school. Beyond your brilliance not being wasted, you are a female. Men have, since humans lived in caves, discriminated against women. Why are men sexist? The primary reason is that men feel inferior to women. What can women do that men can’t? Create life. Men feel impotent. They are forced to put women in their subservient place in society, which makes males feel macho.
Equality between men and women will continue. However, the single best means to approximate equality is to be more educated than men. Regardless of how much education a female needs for any job to compete with men, women have to have more education. If a job requires a high school education, a woman needs some college. If a job requires a diploma from college, a woman needs a bachelor’s degree.
Years ago, I promised you a college education. That is my bottom line. When you graduate, we can talk about continuing on or working as an intern at some organization, another educational situation.
I get that you and your parents appreciate any help that I can provide. I decided years ago that I’d spend money on things of value. There are two things that I see as value. My family and Ginger. I’m not wealthy. I have a 2009 Jetta with a quarter-million miles on it. I made a decision about where to spend my money, and it isn’t in cars. I take care of Ginger, and I take care of my family. Why? Because both Ginger and my family make me happy. It goes back to my saying, “It is in giving that we get.”
Your mother and I argue about her wanting to repay me. I laugh at that comment. I can’t pay your parents for my three granddaughters. You guys think that you are benefiting from me. I am sure you are grateful, but what I do for you and my family is more about how I benefit. Trust. I’m happy that you are happy, but I am happier than you and my family. Someday, we will be on another tour together, and we can argue about who is happier.
Just remember: it is in giving that we get.
Ti Ti, you are the crème de la crème, and I love you.