Kindness amid turmoil: Australian teacher recounts life in Myanmar

TEACHER: Adam Fraser was evacuated from Myanmar in April after a military coup. His wife, Chan Chan, and two stepchildren [inset] are still there.
TEACHER: Adam Fraser was evacuated from Myanmar in April after a military coup. His wife, Chan Chan, and two stepchildren [inset] are still there.

Up until April, Australian teacher Adam Fraser had spent the last 11 years in Myanmar [Burma] educating international students about the diverse world of performing arts.

But Mr Fraser has found himself unexpectedly back in Australia after a military coup d'├ętat in February reignited instability in Myanmar, a country which has spent several decades embroiled in an on again-off again civil war.

Mr Fraser, who has a wife and two stepchildren still in Myanmar, was told by his school, The International School Yangon, to flee the country for his own safety.

DOWN ON SKID ROW: During his time at Yangon International School, Adam Fraser worked as the head of performing arts, teaching film and drama, while also helping put on musicals such as Little Shop of Horrors [pictured]. Photo: SUPPLIED

DOWN ON SKID ROW: During his time at Yangon International School, Adam Fraser worked as the head of performing arts, teaching film and drama, while also helping put on musicals such as Little Shop of Horrors [pictured]. Photo: SUPPLIED

"Since the coup, there have been mass peaceful protests that have been met with force by the military, which have resulted in a number of deaths and thousands of arrests," he said.

"One of the hotspots for protests was across the road from my house, and to hear gunshots and gas canisters going off in the streets put everyone on edge.

"The military enforced a strict 8pm curfew, with no internet at intermittent times, so as a result, the school made the decision to put me and a few other international teachers on chartered flights home."

IN OTHER NEWS:

Despite recent escalations in conflict, Mr Fraser considers his 11 years in Myanmar the most groundbreaking years of his life.

"It was my first international posting as a teacher, and I certainly had initial reservations about Myanmar from what I'd heard in the news of its unstable past," he said.

"But I've never felt safer anywhere else: Myanmar has such a rich culture that has gone unchanged for centuries, and the Burmese people still hold true to many of their core Dharma and Buddhist values.

"The kindness of the Burmese people is above and beyond, and it changed the way I perceive the world."

Since returning to his hometown in Bathurst NSW last month, Mr Fraser has continued to teach his students online.

Mr Fraser has highlighted his experience in Myanmar to stress the importance of stepping outside your comfort zone to experience something new.

"I often tell my students to be critical of how you think about things, but to also be curious," he said.

"There's an important life lesson there somewhere: other cultures may seem foreign on the surface, but curiosity is a beautiful thing."

TAXI: Mr Fraser's trips to school sometimes required interesting transport options. Photo: SUPPLIED

TAXI: Mr Fraser's trips to school sometimes required interesting transport options. Photo: SUPPLIED

Mr Fraser graduated from Kelso High School in 1996 and Charles Sturt University in 2000 with a Bachelor of Communication majoring in Theatre-Media.

More recently, Mr Fraser played a role in presenting TED Talks in Yangon.

As he was leaving Myanmar, Mr Fraser was informed of a new role on Jeju Island, a South Korean island province.

This story Kindness amid turmoil: Australian teacher recounts life in Myanmar first appeared on Western Advocate.