Like everyone everywhere we are feeling overwhelmed with what is happening globally… and very relieved but also sad to have left Myanmar so abruptly.
It all started for us on Monday March 16 with a message saying all Australian volunteers globally would be repatriated back to Australia by 31 March.
We were calm. Ok… we have a couple of weeks to wrap things up, pack up our house, get rid of excess ‘stuff’, tie up loose ends with our volunteer assignments, say our farewells etc etc.
By Wednesday it had all changed and the repatriation became urgent. All training establishments (including Sanon) were told to close by the Myanmar Government – effective immediately.
Our students began to be sent to their villages and homes. It was a whirlwind for them too.
We very quickly started our planned goodbyes which included a farewell project taking photos of people we knew. These were quickly developed into hard copies. We then gave out these printed photos to friends and acquaintances we’d connected with all across NyaungU – on our morning walk, in our street and in the market. These people had become a part of our everyday Bagan lives. It was such a heartfelt way to say goodbye and replace tears wth smiles.
Our last few days had lots of tears, little ceremonies, farewell meals, visits to our home to say goodbye and beautiful gifts exchanged. We received lots of exquisite handmade lacquerware, traditional shirts and longyis, gorgeous artworks, baskets, a Buddha, scarves, shawls… so much generosity including a loaf of bread presented to us by a man we saw every day on our way to work. We have been so humbled and again overwhelmed by the sentiments and extreme generosity of our Myanmar friends and acquaintances who have so little themselves.
It all happened sooooo fast. By Friday we were onto our 4th itinerary with others being cancelled as countries transiting rules changed. We became less calm and decided we needed to get to Yangon and be ready to be airlifted out as soon as a flight became available. Any flight would do.
So on Saturday morning 21 March we took one last walk around NyaungU before boarding the first flight we could get out of Bagan.
The next morning we left Myanmar and began the 30 hour travel marathon flying home via Singapore, Adelaide and Sydney to Coolangatta trying to keep ahead of the closing airports, cancelled flights and locked borders.
We happily made it to Coolangatta Monday night. My brother and his wife have a holiday unit there that was vacant so we are staying here for our self isolation. My Mum and her friend Carol had come the day before and stocked up the cupboards and fridge with fresh and long life foods to last us 14 days. We are again blessed with caring family and friends.
So here we are… nearly one week of self isolation ticked off. Nine more days to go and then we can go outside. So far no symptoms so that is good news.
Stay safe everyone. Stay home. Stay well. Everyone needs to do their bit to stop the spread.
A big thank you to the entire Australian Volunteers Program and Corporate Travel teams who did a fantastic job getting us back to Australia through this challenging time under extremely difficult circumstances.