We buy a bottle of Champagne, which a Boy named Sue has never tasted before. He takes to it like a duck takes to water, and demolishes the best part of the bottle while we are still working on our first glass. We do nothing to stop him, as his reluctance to talk politics disappears with each glass he consumes. He tells us that this Hotel would normally be packed at this time of year. Last year every hotel in Bagan was filled and there weren’t enough cars, drivers, and tour guides to go round. This year the Hotels are empty, and the tour guides and drivers are struggling to find work. He goes on to say how life is getting harder every year for the people of Burma. He, and most of the educated people, are fed up and really angry. But the poor and uneducated are not interested in politics. He claims that when the demonstrations were going on, the government actually rounded up the people from the countryside and offered them food, soap and shampoo if they would gather in the streets and shout pro government slogans, which of course they did. Buddhists believe that what ever happens to them in this life is a direct result of how they behaved in their last life. So a hard life is just seen as a penalty that must be endured, and not as something that can be changed.
We revisit the discussion of education, and he tells us that University is little more than a joke. He went to University, and all he had to do was go for one month each year for 3 years and then he got his degree. He said it was really just a party for the one month a year and he gained very little from it.
If you want to be a tour guide, you have to attend another school. The exams at the end of this course were difficult tests on your language skills, history skills and knowledge of architecture as it applies to the Stuppas and Palaces. However all he was taught in the classes were the rules and regulations that the government has put in place to regulate tourism. Consequently only one in seven passes the exam.
As the bottle of champagne empties, a Boy named Sue gets more and more depressed and ends the evening by saying that if things don’t get better soon, he will try and leave Burma and live somewhere far away, where he will be able to send money home to support his family. He is a bright, intelligent and hard working young man, and one that most countries would want to keep as a valuable asset. But we have the feeling that the Generals would not be upset to see him go.
We admire what he has achieved, and are sad for him. His life is going to be hard, and the only reason for that, is that he was born in Burma.