45-Hour Trip: Part I

by    /  April 19, 2010  / No comments

translated by Thar Tet Toe

In March 2009, the writer Khet Mar left Burma to come to Pittsburgh for her residency with City of Asylum/Pittsburgh. In this three-part blog she relates her arduous journey from Yangon to her new home on Sampsonia Way.


I would love to relate my exciting—and challenging—experience as I made a trip that spanned thousands of miles in this world full of happiness, excitement, as well as, moments of pain and despair.

I left for the United States on March 9, 2009.  My two sons, neither of whom had ever been on an airplane, were really excited for their very first flight ever. We got to the Yangon Airport at 9 am, yet the departure wasn’t until 11.  After we checked in, we left our friends and family who came to see us off at the entrance because they were not allowed to follow us into the lobby. Mother and friends went back home while we got settled in the waiting area.  My sons looked at their watches anxiously.

“How I want to ride the plane!  Departure time—come, come, double quick!” my younger son grumbled as he saw the airplane stationed on the airstrip through the window. My elder son was also continuously asking his curious questions:

“Mummy, we can watch movies onboard, can’t we?”

“Can we also play games?”

“We’ll get meals?  What do we eat when we go hungry?”

My younger son interrupted with a question that was quite important to them: “Can we talk in Burmese?  Must we, in English?”

“Talk in English, son.  The hostesses do not speak Burmese.”

“When in English classes, I had to say ‘Please may I go out?’ when I want to pee, Mummy.  Should I do the same here too?”

“Yeah! Say like that.  The hostess will open up the door.  You just have to jump over!”

We all burst laughing as passengers nearby looked at us.  Amid our laughter, we heard the announcement that the take-off would be a little late.

“Alas! It will be late!” My elder son complained.

As I saw the staff of the China Airline bustling about, I had a notion that something might have gone wrong.  Chinese men in western suits with cell phones in one hand and a wireless speakers in the other came rushing in and talked to the Chinese flight attendants at the gate in Chinese a number of times in a worried tone.

Then there was another announcement: the departure will be at 11 pm. Passengers can go home for a rest and be back at the airport by 10 or stay in the lounge.

My son became very disappointed and so did everybody else.  I approached the woman at the counter and found out that the doorframe of the airplane wasn’t fit enough to bear the air pressure and needed to be fixed. Since it was the only aircraft scheduled, the replacement had to be ordered from Taiwan and would take six solid hours to get to the Yangon International Airport.

I considered going home. However, we had grandparents from both sides, who were much affected by the fact that they would not see their grandsons for years to come.  We would not rekindle their sad emotions and were worried they might be shocked to see us back without any prior notice.  Thus, I decided to call an aunt of mine and we were off in a taxi right away.

At my aunt’s house, I called on some of my relatives who I hadn’t had time to say goodbye to.  Then I emailed those on the other side who were coming to see us at the airport to tell them we would be late.  The narrow and stuffy internet café we went to was crowded, and overwhelmed with swirling smokes and a dreadful din of the electric generator as electricity was out at the time.  However—giddy and sweaty—I successfully sent an e-mail to the other side and we set out again to the airport.

READ Part II of “45-hour Trip”

Click here to read Khet Mar’s bio

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