Monywe. It’s the name of a village where I was born. It’s the place I always belong and be belonged to. To be more accuate, it’s the place I had to leave prematurely. However, it has been remained as the most ever inspirational word and place for my life.
I had just done the last day of my 10th standard final exams (senior high school year’s exam). However, most of my classmates and I were in the mood of neither release nor celebration. We rather felt stressed, and uncertain. The exam itself is regarded as the most difficult and stressful one in Myanmar. The marks we get in those exams are the most incredible in a student’s life in my country as they decide if we can go to the country’s two most prestigious institutions; medical school or engineering school. If not, we have left no choice but end up in a liberal arts college in our own state, where we have no guarantee even to get a job with the degree weget.
However, it was not the results of the exam we felt uncertainty but our lives, and our future, after the high school. It had been two years that all of the colleges and universities across the country were closed down because of the students’ political uprisings against the ruling military regime. No one knew for sure when the doors of the universities would be reopened.
“Exams done?” my mum asked me as soon as I got off from my bike. The whole family – dad, mum, and grandma, all were at the living area – waiting for me to get home. Instead of the usual follow-up questions, “how was the exam? did you do well? Let me see how you did”, she continued, “Pack your stuffs, and leave your village.” We all had knew for sure whatever results of the exam would not be different, as we did not know when the school would be reopened and the whole education system was no longer reliable.
My mum did not make me surprised even a bit, but I did not expect that I had to leave Monywe that so soon. I did not realize that I was leaving it only to return for holidays like as a guest. I was grown up seeing that my aunts and elder sisters going to colleges, putting new clothes in large metal boxes happily, family and relatives, keeping busy by making foods for them and well packing them to be preserved for months in college- before they were sent to their colleges. At that time, even liberal arts education was highly valued. The two liberal arts universities in Yangon and Mandalay were highly regarded for the quality education students received.
They came back during the school breaks and our home was full of noises again- with the stories about their college lives they brought with. After being graduated, most of them seek posts in government offices only in nearby towns so that they did not not need to leave home – until and unless they get married.
Through the stories they told about their college lives and the characters of my favorite Burmese novels, I was grown up with much appreciation on college education. I had already been so much excited by imaging my college life at one of the those prestigious institutions. My favorite Burmese writers wrote many classic fictional biographies about the college life of our famous national heroes who fought for the country’s independence. Sometimes, I even think that I value those characters’ morality and nationalism more than I do on my Buddhist faith and its practices. My country has a long history of students’ activism. Students have actively involved in politics and they have even given strong leadership roles in all national uprisings and revolutions. Many of our national heroes were well loved and respected by the whole nation since as student leaders.
Within one decade, everything has changed. The doors of those two biggest universities in the country were permanently locked up because of their progressive education system producing a string of of student activists and leaders. Instead, the government, now, has built thousands of small campuses across the country – in order to avoid students gatherings in one large campus. Lack of qualified faculty members and teaching facilities resulted out of the government’s strategic educational reform.
“We have love for you but not future for you,” my grandma said. “Grandma and your daddy also thought it would be better you leave the village for your education,” my mom said.
My father, whom I am so close and whom I usually have very lively conversations with, remained silent. We all had yet to meet each other eyes. It was my mum who continued to speak. She said, unusually, too many ‘dos and dont’s’.
“Don’t miss home and Monywe until you become someone who can help your people. Pursuit your heart. Do what you believe in. Make strangers be friends. But try to stand alone. Don’t be afraid of you may make mistakes and you might be fail. Know that you always have home in Monywe. We are here to share everything of you. The history about you is what you make, but not what other people say about you.”
By leaving home at the age of 17, I was the first girl who had to break the tradition in my village, which girls usually stay at home with their parents until they get married. The whole family was so silent and could not find words. My parents and I surely knew that the path I had to take was not a conventional one – like the elder sisters left home for colleges. The life waiting ahead of me was alien and uncertain. We did not say when I could be home again because we did not know. But my parents put trust in me and let me go.
The government’ brutality on student movements was also another concern which forced my parents to make a difficult decision to let me leave home prematurely.
Since then, my long journey have begun. I moved to a town nearby a few days after. A few months after, I arrived at the second largest city of the country. After taking some computer training courses and language courses for about one year, I moved again – this time to the capital of the country. I was in the capital for the first time.
I still could not make the return to my home yet.
During the past almost decade, I could go back home only for holidays.
However, Monywe has been the source of energy I gain through all against the challenges I have to overcome. I am not the only child of Monywe – who could not return home yet. We all are looking forward the day we all could go back home and we will have good educational institutions for our generation so that they do not need to leave their land, if they do not want to.