February 3rd, 2017:
At the end of shooting the first day with Meikswe Myanmar, April (one of the staff) invited me along to her son’s first birthday party, complete with hot pot and an astounding amount of food. The next day when we headed out at 8:30am to Kone Nyunt Village, I still had a belly full or meat and a smile on my face from all the hospitality I have received in Lashio.
Kone Nyunt extended that exact same hospitality that I have found almost everywhere in Myanmar – warm, inviting and curious, they had just as many questions for me as I had for them. Although, mine tended to be about the village history and local norms and their questions started with “Where are you from?” immediately followed by an inquiry of how I feel about a certain orange president.
Kone Nyunt is a village of 80 households comprised of mostly farmers and day laborers of the Wa ethnic group. The village was established in 1971 as refugees from the war between the communists and the Burmese military looked for new homes. It was 2 travel days away from their original home and the local Shan tribes donated the land to let the Wa start the village.
Nowadays, they plant corn and rice in May or June and then harvest the corn 4 months later and the rice 2 months after that. Once the planting is complete, most of the men and women in their 20’s-40’s leave their children with the grandparents and make the 4 hours journey to the border with China to work as laborers in the sugarcane plantations. The Myanmar locals need permission to visit China, but upon asking it seemed that some plantations are on the Myanmar side and if needed the border can be walked across to Chinese plantations at unofficial spots.
In 2016 Meikswe started providing ECCD (Early childhood care and development), Parent Education, Teacher Training, Educational supplies and teacher salaries. The village currently doesn’t have a school building, just a roofed, open walled multipurpose space where children take classes. They would like to see a school built or donated, the cost would be 10,000,000kyat (approx. $7400).
U Aik Sar in a traditional Wa red vest.
Multipurpose space currently used as a school, town meeting area and space for any other function.
Drying rice in Kone Nyunt village.
Weaver, Daw M Line makes fabric in the traditional way in Kone Nyunt village.
Locals drying rice in Kone Nyunt village.
Grandfather and grandchild.