Saturday, June 9, 2018

Discovering Northwest Myanmar 15 - Katha to Takaung

Crossing the mighty Ayeyarwaddy River once again

It’s been a couple weeks since I’ve last posted here on my blog, and so much has happened in that time!

I’ve got a new love interest. More on that later depending on how it goes.

I had to spend a week in Bangkok when I’d meant to spend a night.  I’d gone for my regular visa run thing, and whllst in Bangkok I managed to lose my passport. Again, more on that story later. 

Back in Yangon. I’m very excited in that today, my company held a press conference announcing a new partnership with the University of Wollongong College (Australia) wherein our campus will be the site of their 1st trimester foundation course; it’s a type of college before college thing. 

UoW is one of the top universities in the world, and this foundation program is a way in for Myanmar students who might not be qualified to enter otherwise. Their first experience in tertiary education will come through Edulink, my company. They’ll be learning mathematics, environmental studies, academic English and sociology, the last being my area speciality and teaching subject.

Yes, I’m going to teach sociology. 

I remember vividly 35 years ago, at the family dinner table, when I said I was interested in studying sociology, how strongly my parents objected to this idea. What could one do with a sociology degree? Completely pointless! I think the words “no child of ours is going to study sociology  were actually uttered. 

They were much more mooted when I actually got to university and completed my BA in sociology with an emphasis on comparative cultures. I also got, while studying in Indonesia, a specialized minor in Southwest Pacific studies which combined courses in Indonesian and Australian topics.Who would have thunk these topics would actually be useful someday? 

Water fun in the Ayeyarwaddy
It’s taken 25 years, and not following any particular plan, but these qualifications (what’re  ya gonna do with a degree in sociology?) are finally paying off. Starting in August, I’m going to be a lecturer in Edulink’s collaboration with the University of Wollongong. I’ll be teaching a course in sociology. It’s going to be what in America would be considered to be a “community college” course, so my lack of an advanced degree isn’t an impediment. I can’t really call myself
“Professor Joko”, but Lecturer Joko? Well, career wise, I feel a bit of pride today.

In the video, we continue our journey south towards Mandalay, to the old town of Takaung, where my hotelier was an 11-year-old boy.

Yeah, I dunno where all the adults had gone, but this kid was my sole interaction with the guesthouse there in Kataung. And it wasn't because he was the only one who spoke English because he didn't. 

When you're paying 5000 Kyats ($4) for the night, ya can't complain. 


  1. I don't remember things in the same way. We wanted you to be able to support yourself and a family if that was your desire. Being older, we had observed so many intelligent young people unable to get work that paid more than minimum or wages based on tips. Liberal arts and the humanities are not known for being a basis of high income jobs without advanced degrees or a law degree. As an artist myself, I knew that if I had been a man I would not have been able to provide much with a teachers salary. You may diss us for wanting you to have good life, but you also know in your heart you were a troubled young man with a substance abuse problem looming. Remember when you said you wanted to study chemistry? We all knew you meant cooking drugs.

  2. I hit publish before I was finished. I am glad you are going to be teaching Sociology. You have taken the hard road to get there, but have also had one hell of a ride. Congratulations

  3. Even though it's not perfect, I'm glad you found somewhere to stay! I must admit that I am truly happy for you, that you enjoy teaching; it is so very important. May God bless you. Lynn


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