Perhaps you saw the picture of William Henry Dees V in the Christmas section of The Neshoba Democrat during the 2013 holiday season. Even then, Little Levi, the son of Jamie and William Henry Dees IV (Chip), was on the move, crawling toward the camera, "laughing all the way."

Born Feb. 7, 2013, Levi received the next to the smallest pair of the 17 pair of tennis shoes opened under Mamaw Peggy's Christmas tree at the traditional Christmas morning family breakfast. His cousin Mary Thomas Crosswhite's tennis shoes were smaller.

Even at this tender age, Levi has accumulated a mass of frequent flyer miles. When three months old, he and his mom spent a week at Rosemary Beach in Florida with his grandmother, Mandy Dees, his Aunt Emily, Uncle Pete and Amzie Boulden, and Aunt Caroline and Uncle Travis Sledge. Levi "was old enough" at eight months for him and Jamie to accompany Emily and Amzie, Mandy, her mom, Nancy Hardage, Lynn and Nancy North to Disney World where he loved the lights and the rides.

Levi, along with his mom and dad, flew to Las Vegas for a Christmas visit so that Levi and his maternal great-grandmother, Bibi Hilton, could meet for the very first time. While in Las Vegas, Chip, a professional rodeo rider himself, took his ten-month-old son to the National Rodeo Finals, to show him "what your dad can do."

As I write this, Levi is home after a week "on the slopes" with his mom and dad, grandparents Bud and Mandy Dees, Emily, Pete, Amzie, Caroline and Travis, where "he laughed all the way" through the skiing, snow mobile-ing, and nightly rides "in a one horse open sleigh."


Last week we accompanied Dr. Bill Molpus on his most recent mission trip to Mynmar, with the promise of joining him on his pleasure tour of Western Myanmar following the mission. His travel guidebook read, "Few tourist head this way. The more adventurous head to the state's scrappy, atmospheric capitol Sittwe and the old Rakhaing capitol of Mrauk U, an amazing archeological site, studded with hundreds of temples." Bill, as you have probably surmised, was "one of the few," as well as "one of the more adventurous," and quoting him, "Here we go!"

"Myanmar is divided into seven states. Rakhaing State is the western part of Myanmar and borders Bangladesh. My flight from Yangon to Sittwe was delayed by two hours but finally I am on my way. My guide in Sittwe is in a hurry to get me to the boat for the six hour ride to Mrauk U. Lunch on board and off we go.

Since this is a private tour, I am the only passenger, plus my guide and three crewmen. The boat reminded me of the African Queen, minus Katherine Hepburn. They had only three life jackets! Humm.

As we chugged up the saltwater river, the life of these folks unfolded before me. Harvesting rice, fishing, water buffalo, house boats like in Vietnam, and fish nets everywhere. My guide Mike asked if I had a coat. No, I left it in Yangon. That was a serious mistake, but no one advised me otherwise.

As the sun went down, a marvelous sight, it began to get cold. By the time it was dark, I was freezing in my short-sleeve shirt, and we had three more hours to go. Out of nowhere, a blanket appeared. Thank you, Jesus!

As the guide book said, Mrauk U was an amazing archaeological site. Temples from the 12th century, fascinating and so different from the golden pagodas of Yangon. I only saw three automobiles in Mrauk U, and I was riding in one of them.

Most folks were riding bicycles and Chinese motor scooters and walking. Life for these folks were agricultural, and they were living as they have lived for hundreds of years. Rice is the big deal and they all have gardens for the vegetables.

After visiting many of these temples, I welcome the news that the next day we would go by boat to visit the Chin villages.

This time, the trip would only take a couple of hours. The fresh-water river is not so wide, allowing a chance to see activity on both sides. A never-ending movie of life on the river--- people bathing (with their clothes on), washing clothes, filling water pots for drinking, repairing boats, loading boats with rice, swimming, and fishing. The rainy season had ended the last of October, and now they were in the dry season with no rain expect until April. The river water, as polluted as it must be, would be their main stay of existence.

Docked the boat in the mud and climbed the bank to the Chin village. Wow! Talking about stepping back in time! The narrow streets were lined with neat bamboo houses on stilts. No garbage. No bicycles. We were met by four elderly ladies who offered a basket of bananas. These were the ladies we had come to see. The ladies with the tattooed faces and big wooden rings in their ears. We all sat under a lean-to in front of one of the houses, and they all laughed and chatted away. The mother hen and her eight chicks pecked around, and if they got too close to me, the ladies shooed them away. The pigs, the goats, the dogs, and even a cow, came by to see what was going on.

Three other tattooed ladies joined us. There are only seven of these ladies left in a village of 300 folks. The story was that years ago the chief of the village could have any young lady he wanted.

Many of them decided to tattoo their faces so as to become ugly, thus escaping the chief's attention. The spider-web design was intricately detailed, and they all said the process was extremely painful. They were excited to see themselves on my ipad and posed enthusiastically for quite some time. We all enjoyed the visit.

The boat ride back to Mrauk U is delightful and warm. The next day is the six-hour boat ride to Sittee---it goes well and no blanket is needed. The ocean-side fish and vegetable market is fantastic---one of the most interesting markets in all the world---what a surprise.

From Sittwe to Jackson, Miss. in five flights." Bill's pleasure trips are certainly foreign (no pun intended) to what most of us would choose, but doesn't he add wide-spread interest to our lives! Thank you, Bill, for sharing.


Alyce Gilbert Belenchia enjoyed her annual Christmas visit with three of her sisters and one brother at her home on Deer Creek Drive which was beautifully decorated for the holiday season. Alyce, her sisters, Iris Dollie Gilbert Davis, Esther Gilbert Wilkinson, and Haze Gilbert Davis, and brother Jim Gilbert, are the five remaining fourth-generation siblings who were born and raised on their great-grandfather, Walter Eugene Maupin's farm in Farrell, Miss., seven miles outside Clarksdale.

Iris came from Como, Esther and her husband Wyatt from Summerville, Tennessee, Haze and her husband Clarence from Como, and Jim from Midtown Memphis to share this special holiday time-together which always includes watching Jimmy Stewart in the classic Christmas movie, "It's A Wonderful Life." They were joined by Debbie Booker of Germantown, Tenn. and Tony Davis of Como.