Appeal for advice

So, picking up from my previous blogpost, I’m currently in Myanmar on a tourist visa which will expire at the very start of July. Since arriving back in Myanmar after my jaunt to Bangkok I haven’t heard a thing from the founder of CEP or Ko Myo. Lae Lae has pursued the founder asking for help to get me a business visa, but her reply to Lae Lae (after making a few queries) was that she can’t help. There’s no one else here I can discuss it with so, I’m seeking advice from anyone who will give it.

Here are the potential solutions to my issue and the implications, both good and bad:

  1. Telenor (a mobile communications company) can obtain the letter I need from the government and I can get another business visa. This means another 70 days in Myanmar so I could finish up the English course just before starting my job in Yangon. This option involves a trip to Bangkok to get a new visa, at my own cost. There is only a very, very slim possibility that anything comes of this one.
  2. I purchase another tourist visa so I can stay another 30 days and the course will finish at the end of July. This also involves a trip to Bangkok and a new visa at my own cost. It also means what I am doing in Pantanaw is a little bit illegal … I shouldn’t be staying in this accommodation nor volunteering as a teacher on this visa. It would, however, mean a two week break before starting my job in Yangon, which is quite appealing. I am happy to pay for another visa, but I am also a bit reluctant to continue funding my way through with absolutely no support from CEP. I kind of want Ko Myo to see that if he’s to run a volunteer organisation like this he needs to take a bit of responsibility for the organisational details and provide a bit more support. But then, is that my lesson to give? And at my students’ expense?
  3. I stay an extra one or two weeks after my visa expires as an “overstayer”. This will cost me US$3 a day and, while technically illegal, is done by many visitors to Myanmar (another way for the government to get some money I guess). Apparently you can stay up to 28 days extra for this price, and then 28 days further for US$5 a day. My worry with this is that they keep a record of overstayers somewhere and it will jeopardise my future visa applications, which I can’t really afford to do if I want to work in Yangon. The plus side of this option is a four-week holiday which may involve a couple of weeks in New Zealand where I can meet a few newborns, and collect some more appropriate clothes for a teaching professional – I don’t think my Birks will cut it in the classroom.
  4. I do nothing and finish the course at the beginning of July. This is the safest option and will result in six weeks of holiday time for me, including a trip to New Zealand as detailed above. The biggest downside to this is letting down my students who were promised a 5 – 6 month English course (though it wasn’t my promise, it was Ko Myo’s). It feels like an abrupt end. At the moment it feels like I haven’t even been here long enough for things to become difficult due to monotony – it’s all been interesting and (mostly) fun.

Lae Lae has larger issues to weigh up, which we also need to take into account. She too feels a large obligation to the students and has made some great friends here, but part of her wants (needs) to return to Mae Sot and a job. Her younger sister is at University. Lae Lae paid her course fees last year and wants to (or is expected to?) pay again this year. Also, her parents who live in a small village in Mon State (Myanmar) are struggling financially at the moment. They have a rubber farm but the price of rubber has dropped by a third lately. They also don’t produce, so don’t earn during the rainy season, which has just started. Furthermore, her mother has been quite unwell lately. Lae Lae feels like she should be earning some money to help them out too. She already has a job offer in Mae Sot if she wants it. Helps to gain a bit of perspective eh?

One last note … if I end up doing option 2, 3 or 4 I’m thinking of a bit of cycle touring somewhere exotic. Does anyone want to join me for a week or two?? 😀

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3 thoughts on “Appeal for advice

  1. if it’s of any value, Kim, many years ago Sharon and Kel gave up in Cebu, Phillipines, after 2 years of the unreliability of many of the people they were operating under, and those they were there to help, where no meant yes, and vice versa, where promises were never carried out, and where, apart from one or two very fine people, they could make no progress at all, no matter how hard they tried. Conditions were often crude, where the pigs were feeding off your toilet doings even while you were doing, food was intermittent, and the promised help rarely came to fruition. This is common in many of the asian countries, under many umbrellas, and the lies and deceit, and just the total lack of any consistency just became too hard to handle.

    We met a little similar situation when we had a disastrous end to an organised voluntary stint in Ecuador a couple of years ago, when we were treated disgustingly by a lying, controlling, and we suspect thieving local ‘christian’ woman. We swore after that we would never again get involved with any person or organisation we did not personally know well. It was gutting, so we certainly feel for you.

    Our only advice would be to leave that organisation completely alone, cut your losses, even if it means some personal hurt or conscience toward one or two who you have got close to. Don’t give up your longer term goal, but basically take a cynical and distrusting attitude to everything and every body, and triple check every detail and offer to be sure you don’t get done again. That may sound harsh, even ‘un-christian’ but now is the time for self preservation, and to be able to proceed with a sound direction and a high degree of confidence.

    Will be thinking of you and sure you will make it work. The ups always outweigh the downs. Go for it. best wishes, Noeleen and Russell.

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    1. Thanks so much for sharing your experiences and advice. I’ve decided to end they program at the end of this visa. A recent immigration check confirmed that this was the right decision!! Now to fill in six weeks on a tight budget…

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