Mandalay, MYANMAR - Teacher
Interview made by Cyril Bruyelle in September 2017
Khin Swe is a 25-year-old Burmese girl. Her interview was amazingly touching. Be ready to meet someone with a very tough life, but still smiling and looking happy, and with very mature and deep thoughts. Originally from a small village in the north of the country, she came down to Mandalay to pursue her higher education in order to help her family. She had different jobs at the same time, including teacher. Not feeling very happy in the “competitive system of large cities” as she puts it, she recently decided to take a training in organic farming, to then teach these practices back in villages around Myanmar. In her words “I decided to devote my life to work for the Earth and the Environment.”
What did you want to be when you were a kid?
When I was 10 or 15 years old, I wanted to be a doctor, because I thought a doctor is really important and useful person. You can also get higher income by being a doctor. But it’s not what I want to do anymore.
With whom would you like to have a coffee?
I would like to have a coffee with my little niece, but this is not possible anymore as she passed away last month. It is quite sad but if I had a chance, I would like to have a coffee with her.
If you could choose something that could be taught in every school in the world, what would it be?
This is a very good question because before I started studying here, I was a teacher. I used to teach to 7-8-year-old kids. In Myanmar, people from rural areas want to move to the city, to learn languages or computer techniques. They want to have a high and modern education. But I think they also need to learn how to communicate with others, how to participate effectively in project and team work. They need to learn how to give love to others. Because they can study English, but if they don’t know how to communicate with someone who is from lower condition, this will create some discrimination. It is important that every school tries to change the mindset of these kids before teaching them English or other topics. This is why I would teach students love, laugh, commitment and friendship.
To you, what’s the main characteristic that all human being have in common?
Currently in Myanmar we are suffering from religious conflicts, but we are all human beings. We are all the same, if you look through an X-ray you can’t tell the difference between 2 people. We all have the same needs, and no one is superior to another human. If people could share kindness and realize how common we are, they would comprehend that we are not so different from others. You need to understand that you are a human being and that if you need something, another human being will probably need the same. You need to respect others with their differences.
To you, who is the happiest person on earth?
The happiest person on earth is the one who does not own anything. If you own a lot of things, you may have a lot to worry about and a lot of stress. If you have nothing you will be happier than others.
If you were President of the US, what would your first reform be?
It is a difficult question, I never thought about being a president! I heard that in the US they have a lot of environmental problems. They should care more about the environment and its sustainability and find ways to address their concerns. George Bush used to talk about it.
In the US it is all about shopping, if you shop your country gets a higher GPD (Gross Domestic Product) but it is not a smart way to develop it, you have to use less, to recycle. American people should follow the example of Asians: they do not need and use much, they don’t expect too much. My reform would be to change their mindset. That way if they accept not to try to get always more than what they already have, it could help solving other problems like the conflicts or tensions with other countries.
What do you need?
I need a home. I did have a home, but it has been destroyed and it cannot be warm and safe anymore. My mom and my niece passed away so I cannot be at home anymore. For the last 3 or 4 year I have tried my best, I’ve worked several jobs to be able to pay for my family. I wanted to build a home, nothing fancy, just a nice place to be safe, I was really trying and we had it for some time, but it has been destroyed. For the next generation, I really just want to have a home.
What would you do if we gave you 1 million dollars now?
One million dollars is too much! My first dream would be to use this money to buy a big and large land to build an organic farm. I already have a plan to build such a farm in my native town. In this area people don’t know much about agriculture and farming. If I had that kind of money, I could manage to develop this knowledge and share it. I could show them how to grow such a land.
Which innovation, realistic or not, would greatly ease your day-to-day life?
I remain faithful to my idea about the happiest person on earth. If you have nothing, your life will not be difficult, or hard, or complex, or confusing. For example, I would never think about staying in a city like Rangoon, it is too complicated to reach any place, it is long and you need to go through a lot of traffic, your life is not easy. But actually, life is easy, surviving is easy. If you have only basic needs, it is ok, you don’t need anything else. I cannot think about an innovation or invention, I just want to tell and to advocate to people that they should pursue a simple life, they should be honest and stop thinking about what they do not have. My innovation would be allowing people to have a humble life.
What’s the news that affects you the most in your country these days?
The current religious conflicts Here in Myanmar but also all around the world. If we cannot live all together in harmony because we have different beliefs, then we cannot think about the future. This conflict really worries me and I don’t want to think about how it will end. It blocks our country’s development and future.
Do you think your life is easier or more complicated than the life of your parents?
It is more complicated. When I moved to Mandalay to study, I thought life was easier, that it was great to have free education in this school, but now that I have grown up, I realize that life is way more complicated than expected, it is very competitive. Before you get a job, you need to acquire a lot of qualifications and skills, and if you don’t, you cannot access these jobs and it becomes problematic. Why can’t we learn as we go along? At school, our Principal told us: “you need to learn and speak English, you need to learn computing and accounting, you need to learn how to teach to the students”. These were a lot of requirements that I had to fulfil just to be myself, to simply survive and to be a human being. Life is no longer easy but much more complicated than my parents’ or grandparents’.
If you had to create a company, what would it be?
An organic farming or seed bank company.
Can you draw something beautiful?
I am not really good in art… Drawing a smiley
This is the most beautiful thing for me: a smiling face. I drew this for 2 reasons: first I am not able to draw anything else but also because for some people it is difficult to smile. Maybe they have a lot of problems in mind or hard feelings and it becomes hard for them to smile. I always try to smile, even if I am sad or depressed.
Can you sing something beautiful?
Really? Singing? It is one of the most difficult thing for me…. But I will try…This song is called “simple life”, in Burmese we say “roeshinnsaw bhaw”.If you do not have jewelry or a lot of things in your life, it is ok. When you get up in the morning, you have to wake up without stress and worries, and when you go back to sleep, you have to sleep without worries and stress as well. In my life I do not want to wake up and go to sleep with worries.
What are you afraid of?
What is your dream?
I want to create an organic farm.
Close your eyes, you are in 2100, what do you see?
I see lots of trees and a big blue sea full of fishes. People are living together and smiling.
What is the most beautiful thing that you’ve seen in your life?
The time I spend with my parents and family.
If you had to write a book about the current world, what would be the title?
The title would be “A message to Earth”
What does religion mean to you?
I like the quote from President Lincoln: “If you do good things, you are good. If you do bad things, you are bad”, this is my religion. If you are not making good around you, you cannot be a good person anymore.
Which of your country's cultural specificities are you the proudest of?
The Thanaka [a yellowish-white cosmetic paste made from ground bark], which I have on my face. Or wearing the Longyi [a sheet of cloth widely worn in Burma], a type of blouse that the girls put on called the Yinbon.
If you could do any job regardless of money, what would it be?
I would like to travel around Myanmar, mostly in remote areas to work and assist in their day to day labour. If they are working in a farm or looking for firewood, I would help them. Also, I would like to spend most of my time with children, to make them laugh and love, so they have a smile on their faces.
If you had to explain our planet to an alien, what would you say?
I would tell them: You are not the only ones in the universe! We are on the same boat!
And you, which question would you like to ask the world?
Why can’t we live together?