Enter Little Burma

This is going to be a quick one. I am at work and I just wanted to get some thoughts out on “paper”. After a month of training with Literacy Buffalo I am officially “qualified” to tutor English…yikes (what a scary thought). I have been assigned two Burmese cousins, in their late 30′s.

Tha and Maung are their respective names and I am meeting them for the second time today here in sunny Buffalo. They moved here to escape persecution from a military government gone wild and seek a life of freedom and economic opportunity here in the US. I hope to help them improve their English significantly because I recognize the economic benefits it will confer upon them and their families. I will mix some traditional modes of teaching with my own crazy wacky ideas. Not having much luck learning Italian after 7 years of schooling has got me thinking there has to be a better way. I am going to try to infuse fun with learning and make it a more interactive experience. I have an opportunity to provide relevant material that will not only be useful to them but enjoyable. The context behind the lessons will be an important theme I try to incorporate throughout our time together.

My first lesson was very informal and my objective was to get to know my students as best I could, assess their needs and current skills, as well as understand their hobbies. Tha has a family full of love, two boys and two girls…boy, girl, boy, girl is how he explained the sequence they came out. He also mentioned an affinity for whiskey which I share and we had a good laugh commiserating over our drinking habits. Tha prefers a shot of whiskey before bed, to calm his nerves and put his body at ease. Or at least thats what his body language seemed to suggest. Who can blame him for that?

Maung has no family here in Buffalo and is a bit more of an introvert. Although its apparent  he understands English better than his cousin Tha.  He expressed a great disdain for the military back home in Burma and I sense there is a history of repression that burns within him. Both Tha and Maung share a profound pride for their country and reminisced about its beautiful mountains and streams. If I understand correctly they are both members of the Karin ethnic minority and their former government targets their villages and a large portion have been forced to flea into Thailand and live in refugee camps. I asked if they would ever go back and they suggested they might for a week or two, but certainly not to live. Buffalo is home now and they seem pretty happy here.