Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Violence in Mandalay

I got to school early today, ready to head out on our field trip.  Basically, a road trip with Flat Stanley to photograph him at a variety of sites around Mandalay.  The kids were pumped and had worked in teams of two to prepare posters.  In English, they described the location and why Flat Stanley would enjoy it.  Even more challenging, they did it from the voice of Flat Stanley, in the past tense.  Not easy stuff for first graders working in their second or third language.

One of my kids arrived early and asked about the "city problems" that she'd overheard her mommy talking about.  I immediately emailed my boss and the local woman in admin.  We started piecing news together.  It seems that in the middle of the night on Tuesday night, July 1, over 300 people stormed a Muslim neighborhood.  A car was either set on fire or it was a car bomb.  People were threatened with knives, sticks and machetes.  I heard directly from a local friend who lives a few houses from where the car bombing happened.

After more information and much discussion we decided to postpone the field trip.  By 9:00 a.m., Mandalay time, the Myanmar army had closed roads around the affected area.

The kids were very disappointed and I told them we'd postponed because I was afraid it would rain and that because FS was made of paper he would lose his head, arms, legs, etc.  They thought that was funny and wanted to protect their Flat Stanley's.  So, disappointed, I offered them options for the first period.  They chose Math Bee, their favorite activity.  I made it even more special by allowing them to challenge one of the three teachers.  Teachers won, but it was close.

After recess, they got a surprise.  Dr. Gary, the principal had agreed to challenge each team.  He won, by a landslide.  I think they were intimidated.  He said he'd be happy to have a rematch any time.  I think they'll be ready next time.

After school, I took a taxi to a grocery store far from where the violence had happened.  I'd heard that Zeygo market was still closed down (owned by a Muslim) and the area blocked off.  I saw no signs of problems on the roads.  It was much like being in Bangkok during the coup - lots of reports but no sign of violence, problems.

Hopefully, things will be back to normal tomorrow.  Sadly, the Buddhist/Muslim issues that sparked this violence have deep roots.  It's not going to be resolved over night.  And, like most religious/ethnic conflicts, the people I spoke with today all abhor the violence and are appalled at what is happening.  That's the case in so many areas of the world today.  Why is it the extremists who are in control rather than the sensible majority?

I'm hoping that my first graders will be enjoying a Flat Stanley field trip next week and we won't have to worry about anything but which snack to buy at the bakery.

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