“I love my wife so much. She is not my wife. She is my wife, and my life. She cooks the curry, and I eat the curry.”
Such simple words, but these were the words I most remember Tinmyint, a taxi driver in Yangon, Myanmar speaking to me. He mentioned his wife several times during our time together, and I couldn’t help but think of how few men praised their wives to perfect strangers.
We had met under unusual circumstances, Tinmyint and me. I had suffered a long night of food poisoning. The conditions in most of Myanmar are less than sanitary. I had been warned before coming, and had even built up my immune system for weeks before with Echinacea tea, goldenseal to restore the lining of my digestive tract, and daily doses of grapefruit seed extract. But, I still got sick anyway. Fortunately, I had brought colloidal silver, and by morning was doing somewhat better. Though weak and tired, I had to venture out to get a visa to enter Thailand again.
I arrived at the Thai Embassy to find out, to my dismay, that the vans I had read that usually set up camp to take passport photos weren’t there. I went inside to ask the agent where I could get a photo. The agent was so friendly that he actually left his post to come and help me find a taxi, as I would have to go downtown. (Not a fun thing to realize when you aren’t feeling well.)
He stood with me looking up and down the street for several minutes before a man who was already in line to get his own visa asked if I needed help. It was Tinmyint, and he offered to leave his place in line to take me to get a photo. Not only that, knowing that I absolutely had to get this photo, he didn’t try to overcharge me, but offered a very fair price of $3 roundtrip.
Tinmyint seemed unconcerned about his change of plans. His English was really good, and he immediately became my tour guide. He pointed out the quaint small buses that were flying down the streets of Yangon. He pointed out the people, the pagodas, and gave me a history of everything that we saw.
At first, I had been upset by this change of plans, but I soon settled in and decided to view this as the adventure it was. I think Tinmyint’s cheerful attitude helped me to relax into the moment. He helped me to see the joy in what was, rather than wishing circumstances were different. As, I realized this, the entire world seemed to mirror this lesson back to me. The entire world suddenly seemed filled with wonder and delight.
Tinmyint revealed to me that he was 64 years old, and that he felt very blessed by God. He told me he was a Muslim, and that it made him sad that in his country the Muslims and Buddhists weren’t getting along. Not getting along puts it lightly. It makes me sad when I see murders in the name of religion, the very thing that is supposed to bring peace to people’s lives and hearts. Tinmyint said he wished that everyone was free to worship God in the way that they wanted. He didn’t understand why others would try to interfere in his own personal relationship with God.
Tinmyint showed no ill will towards the Buddhists, and after we applied for our visas, he offered to take me to some of the Buddhists pagodas and to the market, so I could see the local culture. I still wasn’t feeling well, but I knew if I turned down this invitation, I might very well be missing out on something that could change my life. He knew a lot about both the Shwedagon Pagoda and Sule Pagoda and guided me through these areas with such joy as he pointed out these historical and spiritual landmarks of his country.
Before dropping me off at the Bogyoke Aung San Market, to explore on my own, Tinmyint told me since I was his guest, he would like to take me to tea. He took me to a local Myanmar tea shop, and this visit became one of the highlights of my trip! Though, a visit to the bathroom showed me that no one washes their hands at this place, so I made sure not to eat any food!
As I wandered around the market, I reflected on all that I had learned from Tinmyint. I saw a man full of gratitude, who was so grateful for what he had, that he would tell perfect strangers of all that he was thankful for. I reflected on all that I learned in Myanmar. Yes, there are some places in this world that are less than sterile, less than sanitary, and you probably will get sick by visiting them. But, in the end, it is the memories that you will have from visiting these places, the smiles from the people you meet, and the wisdom from their words that will stick around long after the sickness fades.
Tinmyint’s last words to me were, “Please don’t ever forget me because I will never forget you.” We just never know how much we are touching someone’s lives. And we can never imagine just how much they can touch ours.