Children from the Northern Star (1.20.2004)

Today’s children are tomorrow leaders. To become future good generations depend not only on children themselves but also on many factors: environment, education, culture, religion, and etc. Although the process of human development may be very complicated, to become a better generation rely on only two factors. They are environment and parents. It is all about what they expose, and how they will be taught by their parents.

As I was born and raised in Kachin State, the northern part of Myanmar, I will talk about my own experience in that region only. I have traveled back and fort uncountable times by train between Myitkyina, where the railway ends in the north and Mandalay, the second largest city in central Myanmar. The railway passes through three states along the rail road: Kachin, Sa Gaing, and Mandalay. I don’t know much about the other two states except our Kachin State. Some of the towns in Kachin State are Myitkyina, Moe Nyin, Moe Gaung, Ho Pin, Nam Ma Tee, Nam Mar, Sar Maw, Taung Ni, Shwe Gu, Pyi Taung, and Ma Yan. Among them, Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin State, Moe Gaung, and Moe Nyin are bigger and more populated towns compare to others.

Myitkyina’s business mainly depends on Hpa Khat, home of world best quality jade, and nearby small villages. The time when I was in my teenage years, Myitkyina seems too far away from Yangon, the capital of Myanmar, and Yangon was kind of a very cool big city. I often heard of amazing news and rumors about Yangon. At that time, going to USA or foreign countries was only in our dreams and looked like impossible for most of us in such remote town. So it was the time when we were teenagers, and the time we absorbed everything good or bad.

Look at around us; mostly all we heard were about Hpa Khant, cheap drugs, gambling, gangs, and prostitutes. Many times and everywhere, we heard and talked about who became billionaires or penniless suddenly with jade business. Although in Myitkyina, only those live around downtown area can open small shops and do business. Majority has to go out of the town to make money: in this case, mostly of them went to Hpa Khant.

Imagine our boundary of exposure of things, the depth of our vision, and the kind of our motivation, what would we learn and what we will do? It is not new that we heard many young people in our generation addicted to drugs, alcohol, gambling, and etc. Especially, in jade mines area, many people from around the country in some ways have ties with jade business. Some people call Hpa Khant “little Hong Kong”, which is a free zone and many things you can’t find in town are there. Many people got addicted to at least one thing out of the three; gambling, heroin, prostitute (pe, phoe, and phar in Burmese). Of course, there are many people who can avoid the above three, but can’t avoid getting rich in a short cut. As our young people usually hang around at tea shop, most of the stuff we talk about was within a very small boundary and hardly beyond it.

Although most of us went to schools or colleges, most had no idea what to do with our degrees or where to use them. Very often, not only friends but also adults people will laugh at you when you say you are going to college or to become a doctor or an engineer. It seems they already know the fact that we will return to do our own business or family business no matter what degree we get. This kind of idea has stuck around in our people quite a long time. It affected our young generation. We became not very serious in studying anymore, and going to school was just for fun or just wasting time. Therefore, we forgot and left all we studied at school when we graduated.

Talking about parents, I understand all the parents in the world love their children, which I believe is universal truth. But the way how parents teach and raise their children is very important, and which has great effect on how our future looks like.

In my hometown, some parents love their children so much that they never want them to go here and there. They don’t want them to do this and that. They want them to stay at home all the time. When the sun sets, there is no going out. Even the children become around 20’s, there is still iron rule at home. Those kinds of thing can create problems when they grow up: troubles in social relation, making decision, and self confidence.

Some parents, who do business at jade mines or somewhere else, were too busy and they were away from their homes most of the time. They couldn’t spend more time with their children. As a result, there was no strong bond of affection between parents and children. Parents could not focus on what children were feeling and doing.

Another thing is that many girls in my hometown were usually labeled as “girls hiding at home”. I feel very pity for them. I think many young girls or women were the victims of our social culture. Many adults, many of my friends, and even I at that time thought it was not good for a girl to do something that we boys normally would do: hanging out with other friends, going out at night, sitting at a tea shop, and etc. What they could do were staying at home, going to schools, keeping their shops, and cooking at home. I think I have never seen my sisters sitting at a tea shop. I feel many girls from my hometown lost their freedom and their beautiful time. What a social norm created in Myitkyina!

Such norms and society created many bad consequences: loosing many talented children, more conflicts between children and parents, unprepared children when they grow up, heavy responsibilities on children and no clear paths for children to continue.

I do understand what our parents or grand-parents have gone through at their time, and in what kind of situation they grew up. Actually, they all are heroes in our lives and they have done tremendous sacrifices for all of us. What we should do is to learn from the past, keep the good things, and change the bad things. In that way, we can prepare a better step for our children.

It is understandable that many people from Myitkyina have moved to big cities: Mandalay, Yangon, etc. People from big cities have moved to other countries: such as USA, Singapore, UK, Japan, Australia, and etc. Just like cows move to better pastures when they think there is nothing good to eat in their lands. (I’m not sure if it is a good comparison)

In fact, we don’t have to move or find a better place. Myitkyina is a very beautiful place with nice people, pleasant weather, good fruits, and great landscape, plenty of trees, mountains, and water. We just need to create a better environment for our children with cares and loves. Listen to our children, let them express their feeling, and give a chance let them freely be creative. We also need to provide them with a better education. (Remember, it is very important that we have to educate ourselves as well.)Then Myitkyina will not be the same as before. It will be Myitkyina, the Northern Star.