Many elementary classrooms in Myanmar are taught by monks. Sue and Gayle Holmes plan to update their teaching methods.
I just successfully purchased four round trip tickets on Air Asia from Bangkok to Yangon, Myanmar. Sue and I are going there with two Australian friends to do teacher training under Nargis Library Recovery. You may have been hearing lately how Myanmar is opening up at least a little, no thanks to continued US and EU sanctions. We are taking advantage of that and will be among the first foreigners to work with school teachers there. I’ll say more about that when we return to Thailand mid-January.
After purchasing those tickets I feel like I really accomplished something. The process turned out to be as breathtaking in scope as it was extreme in complexity. First of all, I got everyone’s names, birthdays, passport numbers &expiration dates as well as other personal information – Air Asia wants it all. They also default to charging for extra legroom seats. Uncheck that and you get the normal seats, which they still charge extra for! I finally found a button to uncheck all seat selection, which is no extra charge, but warns you that your party will not sit together. To get even for that I suppose they will put each of us in a center seat between to big guys that smell bad. They charged for each of us taking a checked bag. I unchecked two of those but found out 3 screens later that I had to uncheck it separately for the return trip.
Anyway, it went on like that until time to pay. They declined my normal credit card, so I called the card company. Fortunately calling 800 numbers from foreign countries via Skype is free. They said everything was fine, so I called Air Asia to find out that they simply do not accept credit or debit cards from the US due to their higher fees. I have seen that on a few other websites in Europe, where the drop down list of the card issuer’s country has everyone (even Afghanistan and Iraq) except the US, Myanmar and North Korea.
Hector Rivas of Thrift books and Thant show a monk teacher new curriculum Nargis Library Recover can supply.
Do people in the US think that the card companies supply them with kickbacks from their rewards cards for free? Either the card holder or the merchant has to pay for that. In this case the merchant, Air Asia, decided it won’t.
As much as I admire their stand, the only alternative I had to using a card was getting to their office Suvarnabhumi airport which means going an hour outside of Bangkok. So I tried my Bangkok Bank card.
This was the first time I tried using my Thai card on the internet. I use it here because it has none of the rather stiff fees (some originating from the US) that the foreign debit and credit cards now have in Thailand. What an experience! It included phone calls to automated systems where I entered account, code, pin and other numbers, entering codes returned via SMS, other codes returned via my email account, thinking up my own 8 digit codes and writing them down and entering them twice, etc. I got timed out of the system several times, but of course each time I was that much faster when I came back. I learned a lot that was not worth learning.
It finally worked, but the codes produced by all this are good only for eight days, so next time I’ll have to do it all again! I’ll forget everything I learned in this process by then.
I wish I could use my US card. Of course there are some US credit cards that are not rewards cards, but the merchant can’t tell which those are. I know, because we process credit card donations on our foundation website, and cannot tell what the charge for an individual card will be until after the transaction is done.
Maybe the card companies will have to change. The world economy is changing. Airlines especially are looking to charge an extra fee or save a buck wherever they can. Those where US business is a small minority may just choose to get rid of it altogether, like Air Asia did.