64 • pearls around the neck
as she is reminded that true richness is not in possessions but in reaching mental freedom. Letting
go of the fear, forgetting herself and her ego, she relies on Him, He who will take care of her and her
Back in the front yard, she has to prepare for the day. The beans she has soaked overnight in the water
with the secrets ingredients have to be steamed. She lights the wooden fire. The kids will wake up soon
and she wants to be ready before they come. She arranges some Htamin Gyan (leftover rice) and Nga
Pi Bote (toasted fish paste) for breakfast and pours a spoon of peanut oil on top. It is a healthy and
affordable breakfast dish, and she knows her kids love it.
Aung Aung comes out of the hut; she sees the tired look on her 7-year-old son’s face. He looks like his
father, a strong build and those same charming eyes. He calls his 6 year-old sister, Win Win, waking her
up. “Go wash your face, brush your teeth and get ready for breakfast! ” Mya Mya says in a strong voice.
Aung Aung goes to the front yard and washes by the big ceramic water pot using the soap and the
mixture of salt and pounded charcoal as toothpaste. After breakfast, Aung Aung carries two buckets
balanced on a bamboo stick placed over his shoulders to the Ayarwaddy river, half a mile west, to get
the water for the day, and Win Win helps her mother with the cleaning and the streaming of the beans.
The kids, thankfully, help her every morning.
It is the end of the rainy season and the river is still high; in a few months’ time it will become more
difficult, although she lives so close to the river she does not have to worry about water. She wants her
children to be independent. Aung Aung knows he is responsible for the water and the firewood and
little daughter Win Win is improving with the cooking and the sewing every week. Soon they could
take over the daily duties and her jobs, if something were to happen to her.
“Mum, is it true that daddy is not dead?”
Mya Mya didn’t hear Aung Aung coming back. She turns around and stares at her son. “Why do you
say so?” She stutters. “Yesterday I heard our neighbor U Maung talking about him. He said he saw him
at the market in Pyi Town”
She knew this day would come; she had hoped it would come later. One day they would find out. Too
many people knew the story and they all liked to talk. She feared that they might tease her kids. Luckily
nobody had ever done so. So far.
As a teenager, Mya Mya was a fan of Burmese movies. All her friends watched them together during
the weekends at some neighbor’s house, and talked about the plots during the days on the paddy
fields. The stories were very similar. A fresh young couple meets regularly during their free time in a
park under an umbrella. They talk, hold hands, and kiss. One day, while the girl is alone at home as
her parents are absent, her boyfriend visits her when he is drunk or intoxicated. He grabs her rather
aggressively. The next scene is a wilting red rose and the petals are falling, and the following scene shows
the girl vomiting. Ignorant about sex, she mysteriously understands that they had sex and that she is
pregnant. When her parents find out, the young couple has to marry immediately. Sex scenes were not
presented as romantic love: abuse, forced sex and rape were prevalent.