Moo Teh, the Milkman
Taking the bus without knowing Burmese can be quite a challenge. Luckily, on our first day out in Yangon, we ran into Moo Teh, a young Burmese guy with enough English to point out the right bus going to Chaukhtatgyi Paya.
To our surprise, he got onto the bus with us. We were about to hand over the 600 kyat fare to the conductor, when Moo Teh indicated that he had already paid for our tickets. We were incredibly moved and embarrassed by his generosity! Insisting on paying him back, he reluctantly accepted the money. Granted, the equivalent of $0.60 is not much for Westerners, but it is a substantial amount for Burmese considering that many people don’t make more than $30 a month. And I’m sure, it was a lot for Moo Teh.
Talking to him during the 30-minute bus ride, we found out that he commutes six hours every day to sell his one can of milk to the hotel where we were staying. This gave me a whole new appreciation for my milk coffee in the morning. Three hours to Yangon and three hours back to his village on a rickety bus day after day – just to sell one can of milk. Wow! And then he wanted to use his hard-earned money to pay for our bus tickets.
If you are wondering about the mud-colored dots on his face, they actually stem from a dried sandalwood-like paste (thanakha) which many Burmese use to protect themselves from the sun. You’ve got to look your best, if you want to make a sale. 🙂