While the rest of the training crew moved on to a subsequent training session in Taunggyi, I made a promise to U Thein Than Oo to attend a training event in Mandalay. BD and I took a nine-hour overnight bus to get there, arrived in the morning, and met with U Thein Than Oo shortly after. The primary purpose of my presence at the training was to talk to the trainees about my experiences as a law student in the U.S., and to answer any of their questions about American law. Thankfully, BD was there to translate because hardly any of the trainees spoke English, and I certainly don’t speak Burmese. (See my friend Jennifer Morris’ blog if you’re interested in reading about the challenges of teaching legal English in Myanmar: http://law.wm.edu/academics/intellectuallife/researchcenters/postconflictjustice/studentsummerblogs/jennifermorris/index.php)
When we opened the floor to questions, a young man in the back was the first to speak up. Upon hearing what he said, the room erupted in laughter and then gazed at me expectantly. BD informed me that, he, as well as a majority of the room, wanted to know if I was single. After that particularly embarrassing icebreaker, the questions were more serious in nature (aside from one about whether my hair color was natural). Most of them wanted to know if the U.S. has similar problems to Myanmar—like police corruption, human rights violations, and politics interfering with justice. Others were interested in human rights treaties and whether they are generally enforceable (shout out to Professor Combs for preparing me for that line of questioning via her International Human Rights course). I’m sure that the trainees would have been better off asking these questions of someone who is more qualified, but I really enjoyed getting the chance to talk to them about their legal interests.
The rest of my time in Mandalay was spent riding motorbikes from one tourist sight to another, and hanging out with BD’s family members, who conveniently live in the area. Mandalay is the second largest city in Myanmar and the last royal capital of Burma. Below is a picture from the temple on Mandalay hill. You can see the palace walls and moat to the right as well the town on the left.
After a couple of days in the sweltering, mosquito-infested setting of Mandalay, BD and I decided to visit her sister and brother-in-law for a night. They live in Pyin Oo Lwin, an old colonial town in the Shan highlands that lies about 2.5 hours east of Mandalay. The town was quaint, the weather was amazing, and BD’s sister and brother-in-law were incredibly nice—It was the perfect retreat.