Friday, November 28, 2008

Mom's trip (26th November 2008) to Angkor Wat, Cambodia, & Thailand, Suvarnabhumi Airport and Thaksin the Satan

We are Myanmar’s, and the happiness of our parents is one of the paramount tasks that we the kids, most willingly undertake. And this is a story of an attempt to fulfill that objective and the events that are happening even as I write this, that made it even more memorable. Really, really memorable!
A classic case of “if things will go wrong, then they will go wrong!” despite anything you can do.
My mother has spent the last five years dreaming about going on an overseas trip to a destination of her desire. It is not a simple thing for a 65 year old who depends on the financial support of her grown children to think about. The situation is even more difficult when she is from Myanmar (Burma). But we have all promised her that she would definitely be going, and mere lack of money would not stand in her way. She should just pick the places or places that she would like to go and the time of the year and one of us would accompany her in this trip of her life. It would be the first trip abroad in twenty something years and the first trip without her husband, our father who had passed away eight years ago losing a battle against liver cancer.
The destination selected was Angkor Wat, Cambodia, as she is a devout Buddhist, this destination came as no surprised. Thirty years ago in a similar situation like this the destination selected then was Buddhagaya in India. A trip enshrined in our family memory.
Originally I was the one who was supposed to take, dear mom, on her pilgrimage to tour Angkor Wat. But events transpired to prevent me from embarking on the trip. I got a job in Singapore which is from where this story is being penned. So it was up to my older brother to take up the responsibilities of ensuring that the trip took place.
Now my mother is a former nurse, an operating room nurse, a veteran of staring down all sorts of people, and also the mother of three boys and one boyish girl, and the spouse of a Myanmar diplomat, and the oldest of member of her generation on her side of the relatives. Although she has mellowed down quite a bit, there are times when the old fire and temper comes out, a lot less frequent then before but it still comes out when the occasion demands it. A few years ago when our district was collecting money for a community activity and funds had to be raised, people were wondering who would be the one to approach our mom for the required contribution, a thought that brought grown men of the district into a most sorry trembling state. In the end they made her the treasurer and a board member and got her to collect all the contribution of the community which she did so well that she still is the treasurer, Hillary Clinton would have been proud. And my sister has to top up the amount when it sometimes is short because she miscounted or something.
The first hurdle was getting a passport, even with the system currently in place that works at light speed compared to the nightmare of a system of old; it took her 3 months, mainly because she forgot to put in her old passport number, which was something 25 years ago before the common use of copier machines in Myanmar. The fire and temper settled that, so things fell into place.
Then she started saving money not only for the particular trip but also for the subsequent trips around Myanmar to tell everyone in the clan about it. And this was done in a cool 6 months.
Then on the 25 of November, yesterday, my brother came down from Mandalay to embark on the trip scheduled for the 26th of November 2008. Bear in mind that all and every tiny detailed had been ironed out, with my brother with extra cash, stashed secretly away to buy extra convenience and a little luxury, if it came to it.
Thaksin, the former prime minster of Thailand just got himself a new title – the Satan, as christened by dear mom.
Actually the airline staff of the airport got it first, even if they wore metal jackets and had the skin of old wild rhinoceros would not have soften the piece of mind my dear mom gave them when they told her the flight to Bangkok, and for her transit to Siam Reap, was canceled.
The hordes of antigovernment demonstrators had taken over the Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok bringing all flights and my mothers’ tour to a standstill. She was hopping mad, and literally jumped into a taxi and fumed the way home.
My brother also enraged because his shopping plan had been ruined.
He simply could not speak kindly of the Thai’s all afternoon and probably for the coming months too. But he was also quite amused as he observed that dear ol’ mom, still has every single bit of the energy and fire that we saw in her growing up. He said was refreshing to see the energy. The same could not be said for the airport and airline staff. He also felt sorry for all the family members who were going to have to hear this story over and over again for the years to come at family reunions.
And they are calling the airline every hour for updates of the situation in Thailand. For this will be a trip that will be taken.
Let’s see where this goes. Stay tuned for updates on this topic.
Now I finally understand why Burmese used to go over to Thailand to beat them up in the old days of old history.

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