5 flights, 3 days, 30 hours travel… repatriation mission accomplished

Like everyone everywhere we are feeling overwhelmed with what is happening globally… and very relieved but also sad to have left Myanmar so abruptly.

This cappuccino art by one of our Sanon students – Sithu says it all.
Up down, up down… 3 days… 5 flights

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.

Lots of farewelling…

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.

Our lovely friends Khin Lay and Maung Oo helped us empty our house via numerous trips by tuk tuk.

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.

‘Red’ who had adopted us… knew something was happening… and kept following us around the last couple of days…

So on Saturday morning 21 March we took one last walk around NyaungU before boarding the first flight we could get out of Bagan.

Our last morning walk…

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.

Luggage packed ready to go…
To keep our spirits up while waiting in Yangon we painted our toes… Gordon went for green…

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.

Farewell for now…

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.

Categories Myanmar

8 thoughts on “5 flights, 3 days, 30 hours travel… repatriation mission accomplished

  1. Stuart Hetherington March 30, 2020 — 10:13 pm

    Glad you have arrived home safe & all the better for your wonderful experience. And thank you for sharing this with us. Look forward to hearing more about it in EK or possibly Oz when things get back to some kind of normality. Regards Stuart & Yvonne

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It gives perspective to my own ‘self isolation by choice’. I filled my fridge with fresh products on Saturday. On Sunday I headed off to Adelaide to visit my aged mother, and ensuring she was well provided and had a few extra treats and supplies for what could be an extended time without visitors. . Her aged care facility went into lock down very early on, and I am comfortable that she is in the best care situation being offered. A sigh of relief.
    As I was traveling announcements about border closures were coming thick and fast. I snuck into Adelaide on Sunday afternoon as the closure was taking effect.
    When I returned home on Tuesday afternoon I was able to go straight home.

    I was feeling a bit anxious about how it would all work out, but certainly at no time was a reliant on foreign governments, flights or numerous other things that could at any time go really pear shaped.

    so glad all went relatively smoothly and I’m very happy to hear you remain well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your support over my time in Myanmar too!


  3. Mary Givney-Clark March 29, 2020 — 12:14 pm

    So glad you’re home safe & sound, but such bittersweet feelings, I imagine. You’ve both been a very big part of the Bagan locale, immersing yourselves in the workplace & the community. You’ll be missed, I’m sure; & I know you’ll miss the students & the friends you’ve made there. So much you’ve taught & shared; & no doubt, vice versa. Thank you for sharing your experiences. Prayers & well wishes to all, in these uncertain times.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes thanks Mary … Myanmar will need every prayer they can get


  4. So pleased you are home safely even though isolated. You probably needed some serious sleeping time after that marathon. You have done a wonderful job and I am sure will remain forever in these people’s hearts. Stay safe.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Veronica Pansaru March 29, 2020 — 7:26 am

    Tho’ i have not touched them…knowing they are behind the door where i deliver “supplies” is very comforting…

    Liked by 1 person

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