December 30, 2010

Memorable Moments from Twenty-Ten

Memorable Moments from Twenty-Ten
With vital tidbits I learned along the way that have been essential to my survival.

1. Traveling to Burma
Take every opportunity to see the World.
Work everyday to make it better.  

2. Being Maid of Honor
Use the Maid of Honor speech to make the crowd laugh
by calling out the Groom for making fun of your last name, 
because girl you are REAL if nothing else. 

3. Seeing Lady Gaga LIVE
Your parents are THE coolest. The End. 

4. Weasley Sweaters 
How can you be unhappy with a sweater that has a letter on the front of it?
Red Vines, anyone? 

5. Being a Camp Counselor 
Find something that you can LOVE about every camper and hold onto that. 
Never doubt that you will be guided to where you need to be. 

6. Happy Birthday Jesus! Cake & Christmas T-Rex = Awesome Roommate  
People really will laugh with you. 
Be CRAZY if you want. 

7. Marian & Jesse 
Your Best Friend For Life may be sitting right across from you at lunch if you look up. 

8. Attending the Rally to Restore Sanity
If you want to go somewhere with cool people then GO! 

9. Being a Member of IYC: Meetings, Retreats, Stuffing Parties & Roundtable! 
Never take for granted the people in your life. 
They can save you.  
And LOVE will protect you from the star attacks. 

10. When in doubt: JUMP! 
You couldn't frown while jumping even if you tried. 
Go ahead. I dare ya. 

Happy New Years, Friends!
May Love and Opportunity abound with you in 2011! 
Peace and Love, 

This is for You: Weathering the Storm

Life sucks. Then you die.

Really is that all there is? Why do parts of our life have to suck so much? Rejection. Break-ups. Family problems. Grades. School. Why does life have to suck sometimes?

I don’t want to sugarcoat your pain, by just saying that life gets better - because when we're in pain we can't see the light at the end of the tunnel.

A Metaphor: 
Sometimes we’re in a storm. Being slammed from side to side by the raging waves. The shore is nowhere in sight. We can’t see the end of the storm. There looks like there’s no end in sight. All we can see is the storm. Just the storm.

We feel like this is all life is ever going to be. Misery. Hopelessness. We feel broken. Alone. Forgotten. Inconsequential.

But you’re not. You’re going to survive this storm. You may get tossed around by the ocean. You may get drenched by the pouring rain. Your ship may crash onto some rocks. You may be thrown into shark infested waters while you bleed. You might drift to shore on pieces of your broken ship. But…you will make it. You might have seawater in your eyes. You  might have open wounds from the rocks. You might have banged your head. However, you will heal.You will come out stronger, wiser, and storm savvy.

You’re not going down with the Titanic, mate. You’re going to continue to live life and find joy in what makes you happy. You’re going to learn and grow into a beautiful person. Life is filled with such beauty sometimes. Keep reaching for that. Hold fast to the mast, my friend.
Things are going to get better. They will. This perfect storm will end.

December 26, 2010

Response to the Hunger Games

I'm coming off a high. I just consumed three books in a matter of four days. Those books were the series that makes up the Hunger Games trilogy.

I feel like a kid again. These are the first books that I've read from cover to cover (for fun!) in a loooong time. I'm almost embarrassed to say how long - mainly because I don't remember myself.

I love becoming so engrossed in a book that you risk insomnia to finish, but you're able to stay up all night reading because your adrenaline is pumping just like Katniss Everdeen's as she races through the arena. So, I don't sleep, but I feel so awake and alive, because nothing matters more than finding out if she lives or dies. I'm invested in her. In her story. Then in the morning after I've pulled an all-nighter reading a book for fun I feel drained, not physically, but emotionally. I've been with her, experienced everything as she has. Then again, this could just be my tendency to over-empathize with everything

I get off on books about a future dystopia. The Hunger Games, the actual games, comes with all the trimmings of reality TV and roman gladiators. Complete with talk backs, drama, and season highlights. It's frightening to see our current world and 'pleasures' morphed into something ugly. Reality TV morphed into something like the Hunger Games. The exploitation of people within our own country. It's not so far fetched. That's what's most frightening.

The Handmaid's Tale is another one of my favorite dystopia books.
"I was once a graduate student in Victorian literature and I believe as the Victorian novelists did, that a novel isn't simply a vehicle for private expression, but that it also exists for social examination. I firmly believe this." - Atwood

December 23, 2010

The Weasley Sweater!

I finally finished it! I finally finished the Weasley sweater that I have been working on for the last semester. It's amazing how long it takes to knit a sweater when you have schoolwork, work, and the occasional track practice to deal with, not to mention time with friends, and eating meals. I'm probably preaching to the choir! Nonetheless, I was able to buckle down and in the midst of watching 2 Bollywood movies, an anime series (embarrassing, but true), and Season 1 of Dead Like Me I completed my sweater.

My sister helped me with a photo-shoot and I edited some pictures together.

I used the pattern found in Charmed Knits, but it's also posted online at The K is added in duplicate stitch. This worked much better and turned out much better than Intarsia, which I had done on a previous Weasley sweater.
The next time I knit a Weasley sweater it will be for my children or a baby. No more big person knitting jobs.

December 19, 2010

Reflections from a Camp Counselor: Making Plans

Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.
Proverbs 19:21

I've been reflecting upon plans this past semester. When I was in high school, I would imagine all of the things that I wanted to do when I got into college or when I was older. I wanted to do it all! My summer's would be filled with one wholesome Brethren activity after the other. However, not all of my plans have come to fruition. There are things called "rejection letters" that you don't necessarily anticipate when dreaming big.

One plan I made was to be a part of the Youth Peace Travel Team. A summer commitment with 2-3 other COB young adults who travel to various summer camps each week speaking on peace, non-violence, and the gospel. I'd always loved camp and have a strong passion for pacifism. I applied to be a member of that team my sophomore year, but received a rejection letter. 

Let's not call it a rejection letter...let's call it a "Wrong-Door-Try-Again" letter. 

So, after receiving my rejec "WDTA" letter I was feeling rather bummed. Especially because earlier that week, I'd received a "WDTA" letter from the NYC Coordinators. I hadn't been selected as Youth Worker (another one of those plans that I had made), because I had applied to YPTT. Now I wasn't even able to go to National Youth Conference at all.

I was really frustrated with God. I was also frustrated with the system - why couldn't they see that God was calling me to do these things? 

I don't quite remember how things fell into place, but by the end of March I was sitting down with the Program Director at Brethren Woods for my job interview. I was applying to be a camp counselor at Brethren Woods for the summer. It has never been a matter of "if" I was going to work at Brethren Woods, it has always been a matter of "when." Of when God would call me. A week or so later I was offered the job and it was so exciting to find the "Right Door" and receive that "Right Door! Hurray!" letter in the mail, full of a packing list and training schedule.

My heart was happy and I was content. I had no qualms about working at Brethren Woods. I was only compromising my bank account and that bothered my parents, not me. I had already spent a summer in an office (inside) and my soul was ready for a summer in the woods with children and God. I needed this. The first time that I drove up the Brethren Woods lane and saw Linetta, the PD, and her smiling face - I knew that I was home. 

Even so, I was still feeling a little bitter about not being able to attend National Youth Conference. A handful of people from camp were going to NYC and all of my college friends were youth workers. I tried not to let it get me down, besides I'd attended NYC 2006 and that was my year anyway. When NYC week rolled around, I was nervous about that week of camp. My co-counselor and my JR. counselor were both 17. I was going back to Cedar Cove, the 3-5th grade age group, where I had a troubling week 2 of camp. Not to mention, everyone was at NYC and I wasn't.

Despite my qualms, I never gave them any room in my head. I thought them and dismissed them. I hadn't worked with either my co-counselor or JR co-counselor before - how could I use their age against them? Besides, I was a responsible, passionate 17 year-old at one point. This was a new week, with new campers and it couldn't be the same as my difficult week 2. Also, I don't linger in the negative for that will only bring myself and others down. I approached the situation with a smile. The week would be great. 

And it was. My co-counselor and I clicked - we wore matching pink headbands all week and tag-teamed wonderfully. My Jr. counselor was fun and she laughed and enjoyed the campers. My campers were amazing! We bonded so well as a family unit. We had devotions together every night. Whenever I asked if someone wanted to pray - someone did! We even did popcorn prayers and they chimed in. They were a blessing. I was especially sad when this week ended. 

All summer, even in moments where I thought I might explode, I felt at home. When I was walking along the pond with my patience waning as I tried to coax a frustrated camper to nature. Or as I hiked in the heat of the day along the gravel road to the Falls. Or when I had to sit down and have a one-to-one with an angry camper. Or week 5, when all of my college friends were in Colorado and I was in Virginia with the best group of campers all summer. Never did I ever imagine being somewhere else.

God knew better than I did where I needed to be this past summer. After receiving my two rejection letters, I could have turned my back on God. I could have said, "Fine, if God won't have me then I'll just go work retail all summer."**I could have been consumed by my bitterness and let it overtake my path. I chose not to and continued looking for the door that God was leading me to.

I don't stop making plans or setting goals, but I always leave myself open to the leading of the Spirit.

Here's my post from last February when I received my "wrong-door-try-again" letters.
AND here's my small reflection on the summer.

**Working retail doesn't make you any less of a person. I just felt that I could have turned away from any form of ministry at all and devoted my summer completely to money.

September 2, 2010

Joy. :D

I'm just so happy. :)

This morning, I had my mind blown in Social Theory talking about "unthought" and "unthinking". Then I went to Chapel and fellowshipped with friends. I saw freshmen buddies that I had been dying to see! Oh, it was just pure bliss and so wonderful.

I'm sitting in the library now, before heading to work in Student Life, marveling at the uniqueness and joy of college. That I can be immersed in deep academic discussion one moment and then fellowship with friends the next.

ALSO, I've heard a quote from Elizabeth Barrett Browning twice in the past couple days, so I thought I'd share it.

"Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God,
But only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round and pick blackberries."
— Elizabeth Barrett Browning
 What does that mean? Well, when she talks about taking off her shoes it reminds me of Exodus 3:5, when God says, "Do not come any closer. Take off your shoes for the place you are standing is holy ground." So, is Browning suggesting that only when we recognize the splendor and beauty of the Earth and the mighty power of God do we take off our shoes in praise and reverance, but those you fail to see...pick blackberries. Those who fail to see God, just see the Earth.

August 28, 2010


Ok, so it's been forever since I've updated with an actual blog about life.

I am more or less fully moved into my new apartment (room)! My roommate has moved in and our room looks more homey each day, but out apartment is missing half of it's members so the living room and kitchen area look very sad and lonely. BUT we have another roommate coming today and she should be bringing some homey things. Apparently, like everything you could ever dream of needing for a kitchen. I broke down and bought some silverware at Target yesterday, so I could eat Raisin Bran this morning. Danielle, my roommate, called me an old man because I LOVE Raisin Bran.

The past couple days I've been working on the website for Interdistrict Youth Cabinet, a group that I'm in. We plan Roundtable every year, a SR. High Regional Youth Conference for the Church of the Brethren. Our current website is just...boring. I'm trying to use my internet/ web skills to create something new and exciting. I mean I've been making websites since I was 12. I grew up on the internet. Anyway, I ran into some trouble this morning and Dad is coming over to give me a hand before I head to my District Board meeting.

Today, I have a District Board meeting that will last the rest of the day. After out regular meeting we'll be going to another church to participate in a mock Bible Study. My denomination is having a discussion over the next year about homosexuality. So, we're doing a demonstration for all the leaders of the Bible Study.

Ok. Dad's here to help!

August 11, 2010

HOW TO: Experience Burma

Never before seen footage from my trip to Burma! :) To the tune of "One World" by Mutual Kumquat.

August 4, 2010


Summer is almost, I thought I'd reflect on Summer 2010. It's funny to read my post from February and think about how nervous I was about the summer. I had no idea what I was going to do and that post was all about rejections and confusion. God definitely pointed me in the right direction this summer.

I was blessed to work as a camp counselor at Brethren Woods! It was the most amazing experience ever! I journaled everyday and filled it with pictures and special things from the summer. It's been a summer of laughs, hugs, Jesus, fishing, canoeing, horse-back riding, FUN!, devotions, and an true agape community. Some weeks have been harder than others, but such is life. I've definitely decided that I'kidd like to work with kids in some capacity. It was honestly the most rewarding to work with the "difficult" campers and I can see myself working with troubled kids when I get older.

Right now, I'm taking a break. I'm spending the next few days at Marian and Jesse's house in PA! Tomorrow we're going to Hershey Park. There's a huge lightning storm going on right now! So much fun to watch!

February 13, 2010

Summer, Summer get a clue...

"Where do we go and what do we do now? 
Isn't it enough to be young and free now?"
- Come on, Sugar

I didn't make Peace Team. Don't worry, it's not as sad as it sounds. I prepared myself not to get it, because of a lot of factors. I'm a sophomore (meaning that I can apply again) and I haven't done MSS, yet. I'm a little disappointed that they strongly suggest you do MSS before doing Peace Team, I don't believe that it should be such a big deal. They want to whole team to have done MSS before doing Peace Team? I don't believe that to be true. I'm still debating on applying to MSS or not. I suppose I could also fill out the application and then decide it's something I don't want to do. It shouldn 't be something I have to talk myself into doing. I didn't talk myself into applying for Peace Team.

Applying to MSS is a possibility, but I haven't decided what I am going to do with my summer. I could work at Student Affairs again. Hopefully, working out this summer instead of like I did last summer. But there has to be more that just MSS and Student Affairs. I'm not sure if I want to work at a summer camp all summer, but that wouldn't be so bad. I could apply for the Christian Summer Service camp scholarship, but I didn't get that last year, either. If at first you don't succeed: try, try again. Does that apply here? Or should I just forget about it?

The college chaplain put an application to be a Student Peer Minister in my mailbox last week. I questioned applying and wrestled with it, but I couldn't decide what to do. I had a chat with my Minister friend Steve and he said I might want to hold off on it, because next year is going to be a busy year of IYC responsibilities for me. Along with track and school and such. I might hold off on SPM until senior year. Anyway, I didn't send in the application.

This whole post is about rejections, applications, and questions. Life is good. Really. I'm just questioning and discerning what my next couple of steps are. 

Isn't it enough to be young and free now? One of my friends suggested I hike the Appalachian trail, would this be a good summer to do that? Perhaps not. I don't really have the money to do much, besides earn money this summer. Ah, summer. What am I going to do with myself? Hoping something presents itself soon.

Lost Episodes: 45/121

February 10, 2010

Burma Learning Tour: 20 January 2010

On my way to breakfast that morning, a small puppy was sitting at the bottom of the steps. Animals run wild everywhere here, even in hotel lobbies. I think our hotel, adopted him. The hotel workers play with him and feed him treats. I made the mistake of petting him before I walked up the staircase, we heard him whining from downstairs during breakfast. He was too small to make it up the stairs.

After breakfast, the four youngest girls presented our rap to the group:

On the plane ride home today, Alaina and I were discussing how different it was to visit the villages as opposed to Inle Lake. I mentioned that we had two different focuses between the villages and the Lake. At Inle Lake they perceive us as customers and tourists, at the villages they perceived us white people interested in their lives.

We walked around downtown Yangon today, after our flight back from Heho. We passed food stands and many open durians, the most vile smelling fruit in the World. The mixture of durian and the open sewing filled my nose as we walked the streets. We had to be careful when crossing the streets – because pedestrians never have the right of way. It was the time of the day that young nuns walked through the streets, chanting and singing in order to receive food or money for the nunneries. I wonder if Nuns are any less revered than Monks.

We had lunch in a nice restaurant – there were no Burmese eating inside, only white Europeans or Americans. As my group was leaving the restaurant, we passed a group of older Americans ordering their food. We explained to them what NCP does and our purpose for being in Burma, they praised us and thought our goals were great. They were tourists from the West Coast, predominantly from Oregon and California. I don’t know what they had seen or what they were going to see, but it wouldn’t be anything like what we had seen or experienced.


Burma Learning Tour: 19 January 2010

We’re sailing across Inle Lake in a motor boat, but I wanted to write something down about the PaLong Village. The UN sold them adobe stoves for 500 kyats and when they break they don’t know how to fix them because they don’t work with adobe. The stove doesn’t funnel out the smoke anywhere. Plus it’s not duel function. At night they like to sit around the warm fire together and this doesn’t provide that.

David said this morning he’s leaving $1500 – to split among 3 villages for sewing machines and such.

We just went to the monastery with the jumping cats. The monks aren’t allowed to train them anymore – but a family does. These cats were much heavier than the cats in other parts of Burma, for obvious reasons.

Inle Lake is a very touristy area and I hate that. We went to the 5-day market and people attacked us as we passed. I hate that kind of shopping. I don’t know what I would want my life to be a constant tourist attraction. Hopefully, we’ll get to speak with some individuals today – about their life.

We visited a Blacksmiths' shop and saw them working on metal tools. It was amazing and their so in tune to what they're doing. I took some footage of that, too, because it's so crazy to see and hear!

What does Lucky Money mean?

It’s odd to say – but I don’t like seeing other white people. Mainly because it means we’re in a tourist area or a tourist hotspot.

Inle Lake reminds me of a shore front property in Myrtle Beach because of all the houses on stilts. Their only mode of transportation are boats. They walk out their front door and fall into the lake. Their yard is water. They even farm in boats. All of their gardens are floating gardens – they grew tomatoes. 30% of the tomatoes grown in Burma come from Inle Lake.

We just went to the silk weaving village in Paw Khon. Moe said that they go to school until about 14 or 15. Then they begin an apprenticeship. It takes about 2 years before they become full-time or professional. Then they’ll continue for the rest of their life. We saw a handful of old men and women working – transferring the silk onto spools. I bought Dad a tie and mom a silk purple scarf. Moe said that make about $2-7 a day and also earn some money from the sale of the products. It takes about two weeks to make a piece of fabric 2 feet by 1 foot.

Everyone bathes in the rivers. There aren’t many bathtubs. I saw a woman bathing three feet away from a water buffalo and then her son was swimming along a few feet ahead of the buffalo.



We went to see the Angkor Wat ruins and there were a lot of vendors trying to sell us stuff, just like they had done at the market. It was all the same stuff There were children that followed us into the ruins with bags slung over their shoulders. When we started walking and Moe stopped talking – they’d run up alongside us with the frogs and rub their wooden bodies with sticks – saying things like “One!” or “Lucky Money!” – things like that.

As we were coming out of the ruins – there were three children. Two were about seven or nine. They followed us for a bit. But this two year old that was with them ran up to us with little bean pods and shook them together to make noise. He had the same technique they had – except he wasn’t speaking English. He ran alongside us if one of us wasn’t going to buy them then he’d move to the next. Monkey see, Monkey do. I guess. He went through about six of us, before trailing back.

The government won’t fund the renovation of the Pagoda ruins. So – donors now have to donate to have them renovated. Moe said that they believe in merits and want to earn the merits. This idea is very different from Christianity he explained. The ruins are about 1700 years old – built around 300 BC. No more have been built in that area because these are supposed to last 5000 years. Each Buddha is supposed to reign for that long or it represents one – or something like that.

The UN archaeology society came in and fixed one, but the Buddhists don’t like it because they want them to be gilded and golden, Buddhism is confusing to me.

Pagoda means any religious relic or place. No matter if it’s a temple or stupas or a monastery even.

Burma Learning Tour: 18 January 2010

We clogged the toilet we were using so we have to use the neighbors.


I’ve changed and we’re all waiting for breakfast. It’s 67 degrees right now.

Don’t know if I’ve talked about this already, but they have a way of showing respect when shaking your hand. They’ll touch their left hand to their right elbow and shake it your hand.

This morning we were saying it would have been nice to have a bathroom 101, before embarking on the majority of our trip or a cultural 101 for that matter.

Right now Daw Piet is offering clean water to her Buddha shrine, which was right above my head all night. I slept right beneath it.

While were were hiking, we saw tiny bridges, about a foot by a foot. The small bridges are a symbolic offering, Moe said. The stupas are falling apart and they can’t fix the bricks. It’s symbolic of leading to something better – good. Buddhist based. We’ve stopped on a hill to rest. Tracy, Aubrey, Sherry, and I are all at the end with our two guides.

We’ve had to take a short break along the way. Turner said it’s about 12:20 and we’ve been walking since 830.

Jimmy on being 68: “My secret is optimism.”

We arrived to our hotel. Alaina and I are in R-5 (Rose) by the Mingalabar. We showered and then walked through downtown. I found some Honey and WantWants – plus a couple postcards. Jimmy had given us Honey on one of our stops the previous day – it’s very similar to a Butteringers.

On our hike down from the mountains – we met a man and his family. They had lived in the Burma/Thailand border in those hills – but he didn’t want his family to be used as military porters so he moved to the hills, near the PaLong villages. He was holding his daughter the whole time. He had four children – one son was studying in a school in Kalaw (which is where we had stopped before beginning our trek to the hills). He hoped to send the rest of his children there, in time.

February 8, 2010

Burma Learning Tour: 17 January 2010

Alaina and I were woken by Kay at 630. We went to breakfast and they served us scrambled eggs and toast.
We were supposed to take a bus to a certain point and then walk, but the bus wouldn’t start due to the cold. It was chilly and Alaina and I had gone into town with our sweatshirts on.
We set out on foot and hiked through the town. My pack was heavy already but I packed very lightly. We hiked for about 3 to 4 hours through the hills to a place called the Viewpoint. It was the most beautiful view I’ve ever seen. Everywhere you looked were hills. And they were close – you were right among the hills. The people farmed right on the side of the hill, too. Almost vertical. We ate squash-potato-kyote mash with corn flower tortillas. It was a perfect-sized meal and so good! I want to make it when I get home. 

Then we continued for another three hours. The roads were so dusty. Dust is embedded into the deep pores of my skin.
Along the way we met two girls aged 16 and 17. They had had no education and were in the process of collecting firewood. They had hats and baskets slung over their shoulder. David keeps mentioning how creating wood fire is taking out many forests.
We stopped at a home. There were seven sons and one daughter, in addition to their children plus the grandparents. One of the children was a little dazed and seemed out of it, I think she had mental problems of some sort. They explained that a doctor had given her an overdose. I thought about our health care system and our court system. If that had happened to a child in America – someone would have had to pay for that mishap. In Myanmar, it’s too bad, so sad.
{I noticed that a lot of the children run around without an adult by their side or looking around the corner. It appears that as children navigate the village – the closest  adult will watch over them or shout an order. The parents are involved in other work and can’t follow them around. }
We made it to the village and we had to wash our feet before entering the upstairs of the house, because they had made it spotless for us. Gretchen ran water over my feet and we had a traditional feet washing. David snapped some pictures if they’re good they might be somewhere.
Then I came upstairs and had some tea. It is very clean in this room. Mats are down and our beds are arranged on the floor. Currently, we are all sitting around a group of villagers – one woman is very animated and looks like a natural storyteller. She is very animated. We are all amazed by her. She’s been showing us what she has to sew with – a stapler-like machine Made in China. 
Our guides name is Jimmy. He led us up the mountains all day. He speaks English and he’s 68. He scampers up and down the hills like he’s 25. His wife is an English teacher. His son is Saw Me Mon – something close to that. He’s a tracker, too, and he’s leading us tomorrow. He’s 23. 
After the meeting in the house – we all went for a tour of the village. We walked along and the children followed us wherever we went. Young novice monks that go to the Monastic school followed us around, too. About three of them. We took a group picture on the steps of this building.

Then Aubrey went and got her futbol/volleyball ball – and we tossed the ball around with the kids. Some ran away when you tossed it to them. Others caught it and tossed it around. Soon we had a small group of kids tossing the ball with the four youngest girls. They are just like other kids. Their faces are sticky and dust clings to it, so that matted black goo is sticking to their cheeks. 

Some kids are pushing around these contraptions to carry water. Two kids raced them around but the smaller one was younger and didn’t have water in his bucket. 

We played with the children til 5 of 6. And then we had to say Ta-Ta. We had dinner on the floor around small tables. Alaina, Sherry, Turner, and I were situated around one. We had soup first – we have soup with every meal. Then French fries (which was odd), fried pork, and five dishes and a plate of rice. I think I got so full because I drank a lot of water today. The four of us talked for awhile. Now, Alaina and I are writing as a rowdy game of UNO takes place by candlelight at the next table. Moe is playing.
W:1 S:2
In the Palong village we saw them growing this pointy stuff and Moe explained that the Gov’t told the people to grow it. The leader had a dream that if they grew it the Lady wouldn’t come into power, and they would use the plant for Biodiesel fuel. Then they had another dream that if they grew it and made biodiesel The Lady would come into power. So, they don’t want it, but it’s still everywhere. 
That night I watched the stars with a group of people. I have never seen so many stars in my whole life. I've been home for two weeks now, and I looked at the stars last night and they were so underwhelming. The Burmese night sky takes your breath away. It's so hard to describe to people at home, but it's exciting and new and there are SO many stars. Tiny and sparkling against the black sky. I miss it. 

Burma Learning Tour: 16 January 2010

The eldest child leaves school early in order to help the parents pay for the other children’s education. So it pays to be the youngest children. They get the best education.
Alaina and I overslept this morning. We were supposed to get a wake-up call from Kat about 6:15, but David came to our room at 6:55. We were supposed to be at breakfast 10 minutes earlier. We hustled and made it to breakfast, which we ate quickly. While on this trip, I’ve been thinking – Is there any way to escape doing menial labor? Is that destined to be an aspect of all cultures, even the bigger they get the small jobs remain.
We’ve passed women working on roads and Moe said that they prefer that job because it’s not too labor intensive, which we were surprised about. I think it would be unbearable because of the hot sun. They heat the tar in these canister-like barrels over a fire. Then they have to hold it in cans brush it over the road.

Are machines the only thing that can remove us from menial labor? Feminists say the only way for women and men to be equal, would be for a foreign/mechanical womb? Why is technology so liberating?
These people use motors to irrigate the water through their fields and tube wells to have access to clean water. Both drastically improve their quality of life. Maybe we could find a way to pull the people doing these jobs out of poverty? I feel like the world’s economy would collapse if these people refused to do these basic jobs.
We just landed in the Heho airport via the Yangon International Airport. Our flight was only an hour long. Turner and I sat together. I used the bathroom when we landed and didn’t think to bring in Tissue paper. It was a Western toilet, but it didn’t have paper. So I used a B’de! It wasn’t bad, I’m dry already. I might try that more often. So far today:
W:2 S:1 Bde:1
Moe is talking.

We had a two hour bus-ride through the mountains – in a really nice spacious bus. The hill side is so beautiful. Our hotel is awesome. It’s called Dreamville or Dream Villa or something like that. Alaina and I have this amazing corner room: A1. We have our own personal door to the balcony. After we arrived, we had an hour before dinner – so we all walked around the downtown streets and such. The women are kind and they call us beautiful. Everyone stares at us, because we’re white. It’s an odd feeling.

Burma Learning Tour: 15 January 2010

We went back to the Baptist General Offices and they took us on a tour of the small community. There was a home that had burned down and it had been a year since it happened, but the man whose house it was had to serve six months in jail. They were still waiting for a permit a year later.
Then they took us to a clinic called the Matthew 25 Love Clinic. We met the head doctor and his volunteer staff. They took us in to his office and gave us strawberry juice. We learned it takes seven years to go through medical school. He said if they were Nargis victims the clinic treats them for free, but if not then it was $10. He took us on a tour of the clinic. Their beds were hard but people had IVs in – hanging from the top of their bed. We saw a room that had women in it. Some had got stones or things wrong inside – but two women had young babies. One mother had a very small baby we couldn’t see him/her but she was 5 days old. She had been here as long as we had! Another baby was 20 days old and her mother had a C-section!
Then on the way out we saw the surgery room – which is very bright and sterile. Even though this hospital was in a 3rd world it still smelled like a hospital.
On the way to the compound David had talked to us about merchandizing for NCP and we had just mentioned book bags and other things. The Baptist took us to a small dark room with sewing machines by the windows. Immediately, we saw book bags and fabrics – David bought a backpack that we all really liked. He was thinking of buying them from the women there to sell in the NCP shop.
Then we loaded up the van and headed out to a village.
We got to ride on the back of the Toyota Caravan things! They took us to a sustainable organic model farm. They’re experimenting with plants and growing in nurseries, composting.
Then we took a ride to the weaving house. There were 5 women total – 2 working on the looms and one walking around observing, them, the other two were setting up the next loom. They earn about $20 a month. I think they don’t keep working when they get married and have a children, because one of the women they mentioned had done just that and didn’t work there anymore.
The fabric was very beautiful and I saw the spool shoot through the machine connecting the pieces together. Then we walked to the village. We passed three big school buildings right outside of town. The children were playing soccer and standing at the windows waving. We passed some boys playing volleyball and the ball rolled within their reach, but they were afraid to come get it because we were walking so close. But Kay tossed it to them and I think they really liked that. We ate lunch in a nursery/preschool. It had the cutest primitive playground equipment in the front. They had the month spin wheel with all the birthdays and names on it, just like you’d see in America. It was so cute!
Western Toilet.
There was a shop across the street that sold the fabric we saw the women making. I bought a piece of red to match Bridgewater, naturally. Then we rode to another model farm where they had classes for students to learn farming techniques to take back to their home area, affected by Nargis. The first person to talk about their situation was a girl with glasses. I thought “Right on, girl!” We introduced ourselves – and we had two farmers in the group. The Burmese noticed that farmers in America are rich, whereas those in Burma aren’t, because we’re able to come to Myanmar.  Then we did a Q and A.
There was a solar eclipse that day. Weeks poked a hole in a leaf and shined the sunlight light through the hole and they were able to see the moon on my shirt. It wasn’t a total eclipse, only a partial.
Then we went to the Patty fields because Sam really wanted to see them. We caravan’d to them. I’m glad we saw them – a group of women were planting seedlings in the fields. The mud made a loud suction-cup noise whenever they moved. Mud was caked on their skin up to their knees. Then we tried to leave and Moe had to go off on a moped to find our bus – it was missing.

Burma Learning Tour: 14 January 2010

I woke up this morning to bright lights – it’s so disorienting to wake up to bright lights in the middle of the night. We went to church this morning.
We sang two hymns with them – “Count Your Blessings” and something about sowing seeds that I didn’t know. There was only one hymn book in English and they were all Baptist Hymnals anyway. It was fascinating to hear the voices all singing together though our words sounded differently, of course.
Then David preached a sentence at a time and Moe translated into Burmese. He talked about living in the darkness – not living in an ideal or perfect world but still praying and looking boldly toward the future – a new day. He used the idea of the rooster to illustrate what he meant.
Then we sang “Peace be Still” for them in a round. We recited the Lord’s prayer in English and Burmese and had a silent prayer after that. We all had breakfast on the long table – butter and jam sandwiches, egg, and coffee. We all signed a book – writing our thanks and appreciation to give to them. David gave the minister and his wife a pen – I read somewhere that you always give and receive a gift with two hands in this culture and bow to show respect.
Someone remarked how much respect and visible  appreciation is shown for sacred or holy things. We take our shoes off when going into a home, or any building. We were stopped at a restaurant the other day and two monks came to the door with empty bowls. They go to a doorway and are given rice – enough to satisfy them until the next day. One of the young waiters in our restaurant went to the door – took off his shoes and bowed to them as he poured rice in their bowls. I wonder if its custom for them to exchange any type of words or not. But I very much agree with and the like the cultural significance of this is? What’s the value of it? Respect? Cleanliness?
It took us an hour and a half to go 20 miles.
We had such a long journey today. We had our 3 hour boat ride to Bogolay (Bogole) and then an 8 -10 hour drive to PaThein. Our first stop was for lunch at a Burmese- Chinese restaurant. They had some type of Asian pop/rap music playing in the background. We couldn’t decide that language it was in – maybe Korean/Burmese or Thai we were thinking. We had a fun time trying to figure out what the music videos on the TV behind us were, w/o knowing the lyrics. Then they switched the channel to MTV-JAMS and it was all Akon music. We danced in our seats a bit and sang along. Some of the people in the restaurant took pictures of us. It’s very different to be on the receiving end of the camera.
Our second stop was at a restaurant on the dirty waters. We were tired of traveling. I wish that I had been able to move in order to burn off some food and calories. I’m going to start counting how many times. I’ve used a western vs. squatting toilet.
S: 5 W: 8

Then we continued along with three more hours of driving. Alaina and I didn’t fall asleep we talked the whole time about school and Bridgewater stories.

They turned on the inside lights as it grew dark. We noticed that they’re sunlight is from 6am-6pm. They don’t have extra light like we do. Probably because they’re so close to the equator. By this time we had been on the bus for 7-8 hours. Sam and Weeks started singing. First choruses of the songs we knew. It was so much fun and we were all laughing so hard.

We arrived in Pathein and our hotel is so nice. They gave us orange juice to drink upon arrival. Alaina and I found our room. Then we were headed to eat dinner with a local prominent Baptist minister. (It was kind of like the District Offices). There was a smaller table for 6 and then the rest of us sat at a longer table. I wasn’t hungry at all, which makes me sad – because I feel rude. Loi who was a young Burmese man came over and talked to us. He said that the more you eat the Hosts are delighted and think the food is good, but if you eat a little of this or a little of that they think its not as good. He had gone to Switzerland for a 9 month program with other international students. He said he learned many things. – but not everything he could implement and bring back. He was funny and we had a good time together. He was 25, but I was going to guess 18 or 19. He said in his Swiss program that he got carded, when they went to bars and out to drink, a lot because he looks so young. The building was very nice, made of wood, and western looking. We’re going back tomorrow and then to villages.

I still wonder if hugging is appropriate.

February 7, 2010

Burma Learning Tour: 13 January 2010

It’s morning.
The roosters crow echoes across the village. Village life starts early. All the villagers had church this morning at 5am. We were allowed to sleep through this one – tomorrow we have to go because David is speaking.
Aubrey, our 16 year old high school student, is putting on mascara on…in the wilderness.
The village is filled with a beautiful haze and the smell of fire fills my nose. It’s a beautiful chilly morning. It got down to about 50 or so last night. My toes were so cold. 

We heard the church bell ring at 5 – but we didn’t go. Breakfast was delicious. Fried fish and sticky rice. They had buttered bread, too. They have the best coffee here ever! And it’s instant! It’s a 3-in-1 coffee mix and I need to buy some before leaving. We had it at the last village and it was good. Hmm… We’re getting ready to do a walk around of the village.
Have you ever had someone watch while you eat? Yes, well, that’s us every meal. I wish we could eat a meal with them. I think they watch to make sure we like it and to see if we need anything. I don’t like it necessarily. But I’m eating so I can’t complain – they are gracious and wonderful hosts. There’s a pig squealing in the background. He’s being led on a rope – I wonder if they’re getting ready to kill him… They didn’t, I saw him later. Moe said that they rarely eat pork. Only three times a year on special occasions.
The minister took us on a tour of the village this morning after breakfast. He showed us a reservoir that they had dug before the Cyclone that was used for drinking water. But it was contaminated by the salt water and dead bodies. They now have a tube well that pumps water up from the ground. This is their drinking water. It’s very new – only but a couple of months old 17-9-2009. 

He showed us the school and we talked to the school teacher. She was 21 and had gone to school to be a teacher. She had been a freelance teacher before but after Nargis she felt obligated to come home. Her mother and sisters and brothers died in the Cyclone. She makes no money as a teacher, but the village provides for her. The children were very beautiful- many of them had their faces painted with the sunscreen bark powder. 

The women make thatch roof shingles. That sell for $.10. They need about 700 for one roof. The women make them and then sell them as income. 
Moe said that the ducks are used for eggs and the chicken used for their meat. We saw so many of them roaming around. We saw some cages that were elevated on stilts and at first we thought they were for chickens but then we saw pigs in them. Maybe it’s a better way to control pig waste. But all of the animals roamed free at some point.
When the Minister took us to the fields on the edge of the village – we could faintly hear chanting or singing coming from the inside of the village – children’s voices. We walked back and all the children of the village were in the church. Every day they have a time of singing. The girls were on the left and the boys were on the right. One man was playing guitar. The children’s voices were so loud! They sang with all they had. I could feel tears start to well – but I swallowed them down. Their singing was so powerful and joyous. They sang a couple of songs and then told us to sing a song. So we decided on “Peace, like a river” – because it had motions and all their songs had motions. Then we sang “Joy down in my heart.” It sounded like they sang a song about butterflies – flying so high. They had wings and flapped them to the music. They went down and then grew big again. Kay and I did the motions. The kids seemed to enjoy us making an attempt. Children seem the same no matter where you go. They love songs with motions and love to sing loud! They are very shy and in awe of strangers or someone new.

After we sang with them we were getting ready for our excursions of the day. A little boy was sitting outside the church by a pillar – I smiled at him and waved and smiled back shyly. I asked Moe how to say “What is your name?” It sounded like “Ne Me Baluw Caleh?” – I don’t think that’s how you write it though. I asked him and he shyly ran back into the church. I could imagine an American child doing the same thing.
I wonder why they separate the boys and the girls?

We went to two villages today. The first was to a smaller village with about 40-50 people. They were all Buddhist. We had a three hour long bus ride to their village. We got off the boat and walked through a beautiful forest of palm trees. They were low and the leaves extended just above our heads.
We ate in a nice house with beams. We sat in a circle with food dishes in 3 places. We ate pineapple, apple, and wafers that read ‘American Style’ and were flavored chocolate, milk, and strawberry. We had dried fried fish and coffee and green tea. I overheard that tea was a sign of hospitality before something. But now they serve coffee. We visited there for awhile. The room was dark and cramped and full of people. The women brought in the food to us and then they all scrunched in behind us. The pineapple was amazing! Fresh and delicious!
There was a beautiful baby boy dressed in orange. The village leader told us that they had a son and he died in the Cyclone. They believed this baby was the son reincarnated. Alaina and David help him for a bit, while we spoke and asked questions. They had lost all their children, except for 3. We didn’t see many children at all.

Inside the house was a sewing machine – David always asks what the women can do to get an income. They can make and sell garments and make thatch roof pieces in this village. 
I asked about the marriage process –like how old they are when they get married and such. Usually they marry in the month between January and February and are between 20-25. (When I asked the questions – they all laughed at me. They giggle.) They choose who they marry and its not arranged, although if the parents greatly disapprove they may not be permitted to marry. After the Q&A, we all took pictures outside the house. David specifically asked for the women and then took a picture of the mother with her baby. We stayed a while longer – chatting and taking pictures.

David held the baby and extended his arms encouraging him to walk to him. The baby didn’t have a diaper or pants on. He held the baby and placed his hand on David’s mouth. He said this is something none of you would be able to do – shut up David Radcliff.

Then we went to the dock and they followed to wave us good-bye. But four girls and a young man hopped on – they were journeying with us to the next village. We were so confused, surprised, and then excited.
We went a short ways and then stopped at a dock again. I thought they were going to get off and we were going to stay, but the girls were pulling Aubrey off. Everyone was very confused, even David didn’t know what was going on, as we scrambled and not sure of what to do. Then Moe finally walked to the front of the boat and said we were getting off here, in order to change boats. We walked through a village in order to change boats. We waved to the people as we passed them. We got in to two smaller boats. They were the long skinny kind, but powered by a motor.
The four girls came with us. Their names were:
Hin Mar Ming 25
Zin Mar Win 29
Zar Kyi Win 26
Thi Da 32
On the big boat they made Kay and Aubrey bracelets and ring out of long leaves. We began to see houses and children – lots of children – waving at us. Later we learned that the village is a sprawling village established along the bank of the river, running it’s length. We were greeted by a large crowd waiting for us. It seemed like I shook everyone’s hand. Everyone extended a hand to me. They even made their children shake hands with me. Bringing them up to me and holding their hands out to me. One woman shook my hand, and with the other ran her hand down the length of my arm. I wonder what she was feeling for?
We were allowed to use the bathrooms which were three squatting stalls on stilts. I still haven’t mastered using a squat with pants on. It’s certainly harder.
Then we were ushered into the church to wait a little bit for the food to be finished. We were sitting on the church stage and then there were two rows of blue chairs facing us. All of the children were eagerly seated on these blue chairs; staring at us. I smiled at them and they smiled back shyly.
Then we were taken to a house next door to eat…again. This was a full meal and I wasn’t the least bit hungry. They served us whole duck, whole chicken, white rice, some veggies, and whole shrimp (which I found out was prawn). The meat was cold and I could see the skin – plucked skin. It was tasty. Nothing was disgusting. Eating like this makes me feel like royalty – which makes me feel disgusting. When you’re a guest – you are fed and cared for. They are very gracious. I wonder how they feel about us – eating all of their finest food. Is it truly an honor?
They also fanned us. I asked my fan girl what her name was in Burmese but I don’t remember. Sam began to make animal noises again – particularly goat. The children, which were pressed to the door entrance had broken the threshold and stood as close and compacted as possible. They all laughed at his noises. Then a villager behind us began making noises and we all laughed together.
We gathered in the next door building for a Q and A session. These women have no means of income. I asked how big each household is – they laughed. They tend to laugh at my questions. The household size is between 5-12 people including parents. The minister is hopeful about getting a women’s health information – to stop this huge growth of children. They have two women leaders, but no woman’s organization in progress.
Some of us hopped on a long boat to the other side of the river/village while the other half walked alongside the other side. We didn’t cross the bridge because it was rickety, but the villagers did. Although they’d like to build a more substantial bridge, because some of their children have fallen off into the river. On this side, we saw men laying brick stairs to a huge reservoir to be used for clean drinking water. People followed us as we walked along the village, especially laughing children.

February 3, 2010

Burma Learning Tour: 12 January 2010

We’ve stopped in Bogalay for the next leg of our journey is by boat.

I think we stopped at a rice storage barn to use the bathroom. People keep offering us chair to sit in. I feel good that I can say Thank you – in their language.

A man was playing Christian songs on the guitar, when I went back into the dark warehouse to use the bathroom. He sang “Lord, I lift your name on high” and “As the Deer” – I sang along.
The streets are busy. Women walking buy carrying large baskets on their heads. Store owners managing their shops. Nothing is closed off, everything pours into the streets. We see three men handling a wagon of porcelain “Squatty Potties.”

I feel empowered that I can squat and use the bathroom like they can. The skirt really helps.
We passed many small houses with thatched roofs along the river. There were so many ducks – we had to have seen hundreds in those 5-6 hours, and so many water buffaloes and chickens! All the dogs here look the same – medium sized, yellow, with tails that curl towards their back.

We all bought hats at our 1st stop for 70 cents or 700kyats. I feel like a spectacle – everyone stops and looks at us.

We just got into our boat and took sail. I was so frightened getting onto the boat – because there was a plank that we walked along in order to get on. First, they were just going to have us walk along the plank – but Gretchen got there first and said no. Gretchen is a thin woman in her 60’s – she has a bright energy, but tells it like it is. Then they found a pole that we could hold onto as we walked , two men stood on either end of the plank and held the pole. I said Thank You several times.

Alaina and I are sitting basically on top of the engine. David said we’d be on the boat for another 3 hours. I don’t even notice how much time has passed – it’s so fascinating to not be tied down to a watch or to be consumed by watching time pass.

We’ve stopped to give water and cigarettes (I think) to some people. But I look up and see 2 boys each with a gun. They have traditional skirts and no shirt on. They look 13 or younger. I wonder why they have guns. There are 5 men on the bridge talking to our captain. A boy with a checkered blue shirt and green shorts holds a gun in front of him. We’ve pulled out – I don’t know what that was about.

I just had a little orange! Moe gave us a bucket of them to pass between us. Sherry got some for the girls sitting on top of the engine. They were smaller than tangelos.They were so small – like one bite. Alaina shot juice at my neck, on accident! 

Burmese must have incredible balance to walk on planks and one pole bridges and carry large things on their heads.

Most of the boats are powered by hand. They row them – their oars are very long . We wave to people as we pass – they smile and wave back. Moe said that their main mode of transportation is by boat especially because the roads aren’t very good. It took us about six hours to go 100 miles. This boat is supposed to take three. I wonder how long it’s been? I feel liberated not having a clock.

When we were waiting for everyone to use the bathroom in Bogolay. A woman carrying a broad basket of goods on her head stopped and observed us for about a minute. Looking at us all – white skinned. We smiled at her and she smiled back. Then she reached out her hand to the closest person, which was Tracy, and grasped her hand. I wonder what she was thinking. What does a white person feel like? Are they real?
We’re pausing again on the boat. It’s only 5:10 Emily said. We don’t think we’re to the village yet, but we don’t know.
We just stopped at a village. They welcomed us warmly and fed us fried fish. The fish they caught and two lbs of it would sell for $10 on the market. We had these things called shrimp puffs which were like cheetos without cheese. We learned later that they are made by cooking them in hot sand. They served us instant coffee and wafers with peanut butter.

All of the men sat on a long front bench. Moe translated for us. We were situated in a school house on very small benches, low and close to the ground. They had been expecting us since noon – so the children didn’t have school that day. We stopped by at 5 o’ clock. We were allowed to ask them some questions. Their village had been affected by Cyclone Nargis. They said that if they have a heavy wind at night it keeps them up at night because of how traumatizing the Cyclone was for them. I bet that a lot of them have post-traumatic stress disorder, possibly after the Cyclone. It’s very traumatizing to go through a disaster. The children of the village would probably stop school after 8th grade because the closest school for that age was in Bogolay – two hours away by boat.

I remember everyone’s disbelief at hearing the literacy rate was 92% - I don’t know why that’s so surprising. Many people up in the hill tribes are uneducated, but perhaps they’re in the 8%. How far do you have to go in school to become literate anyway?

It is dusk and the sun is almost gone. The women of the village work at home mending nets and odd jobs on the farm. The people said that they wanted some tractors – it takes six cows to do the work of one tractor. The women did not sit in front of us. They sat behind and to the side. A lot of their land and water has been hurt by the Cyclone. The rivers are salty which means less fish. The village was a canal village because there were two rivers on either side.

They were Buddhist but they worked closely with a Baptist organization. There were signs teaching them how to get the most out of their pigs, rice fields, and fishing. They had pictures, too, and were hung throughout the village.

We got back on our boat and traveled to the next village, where we would spend the next two nights.  
We got off the boat and had to walk about a mile in the pitch black, only flashlights illuminating our path. We walked on a dry river bed it was cracked and dry. We found out later that it was the beginning of a road, and not a dry river bed. We had to walk because the tide was too low, so they had to park the boat further down the river.

I have never seen such a beautiful sky. Not only could I see the usual bright stars, but I could see all of the smaller stars. ALL of them. The sky was so clear and bright. It was breathtaking. 

We are staying in the community center. Mosquito nets are hanging over our bed of straw and mats. We have unicef blankets and solid pillows.

They fed us again. I thought I was going to lose weight – but I think I’m going to gain! We had chicken, fried chicken, egg rolls, and rice.

Earlier I had said that the strings hanging over the mats were for mosquito nets and people didn’t believe me. They said they were for clothes, or that that space was too big for nets. But during dinner, we could see the women and men kindly setting up mosquito nets in the room.

We are sitting in their church and Moe is introducing us in Burmese. They have a leader of their women’s group, a President of the village, and a Minister. The minister is married to a nurse. She is also one of their teachers. Now, David is speaking and Moe is translating. They have a vision of education – only education will liberate them from poverty. They want to build proper roads.

Buddhist and Christians get along fine in this village. There are more Christians than Buddhists. There is a strong Christian influence from the Baptist group that comes to help. Buddhist kids come to the Christian church for Sunday School.

Many of the kids can’t go to Bogolay – it’s a big secondary school. Their village schools have 35 secondary students and 10 high school students. They have an agreement with Bogolay – the children can learn outside in the village; but they must go take exams in the city.

They have deep feelings about the Cyclone. The church building saved a lot of people. 120 people were saved in the church. They stacked the benches and pulled the women and children onto the roof.

I’m so tired. Right now they’re asking us about our big storm: Katrina.

After the Cyclone, no aid came for two weeks. (They must have felt so forgotten, abandon, and alone) – they had to survive by themselves. They killed a pig every day, because of the lack of food. After Nargis, there were many bodies everywhere that they had to bury.

Kaun-deh = Good

I’ve changed and am resting under our mosquito nets. David’s looking for the light switch. I think I can hear the generator off in the distance. Breakfast is at 7 tomorrow.

February 2, 2010

Burma Learning Tour: 11 January 2010

It feels like I’ve been traveling for days. We’ve arrived in Yangon. Once we arrived we had to go through immigration or foreigners check, where they took our visa paperwork and such. I noticed a handicapped sign on the way in that read “Invalid” in English.

The restrooms were holes in the ground, with flushing water. Our group was working on collecting our baggage from the carousel; while we were waiting we all visited the bathroom. I walked into the stall and was surprised to see a porcelain hole in the ground. “Hmm,” I thought. I set down my book bag and pulled out some tissue paper. Then I decided that I really didn’t need to go to the bathroom that badly. Put my bookbag back on, and hoped for a Western toilet in the hotel. 

Immediately, I noticed that men were wearing long skirts that tied in the front (longyi), while women wore long skits, too. Perhaps, this makes squatting for the bathroom easier?

After grabbing our luggage, we boarded a bus. We boarded on the left hand side for our diver was situated on the right. I assumed the streets would therefore be similar to the British road system. But au contraire the system was just like home: driving on the right hand side. Our bus had an extra man, whose job it was to sit by the doors and help the bus driver when passing people or to see things on his left hand side. Moe said that a couple years ago – the government decided to switch the road system to the other side of the road. So, the roads are a mixture of left and right sided vehicles all navigating the streets together.

I immediately noticed that horns are of a completely different nature than those in America. When travelling the streets, a cacophony of horns and beeps call out to each other. With frequent passing and the inconvenience of right sided vehicles on a right sided road system, the horns are a constant communication; signaling “Hey, I’m passing you!” or “Hey, I’m bigger and faster – move over, please!”

As our bus navigated the crazy streets of Yangon – I noticed that the city looked like slums . Nicer houses were surrounded by high barbed wires. The houses built during the colonial era are abandoned. Many of the houses have mildew. Not sure if this is due to the monsoons and/or poor upkeep?

We visited the Shwedagon Pagoda, the“Mother of all Pagodas,” after arriving at our hotel. Moe described it as the Mecca for the Buddhist. It was very gilded and gaudy. Images of Buddha surrounded an enormous golden stupa that stretched into the sky. All of the Buddhas were nestled safely inside hundreds of golden stupas everywhere you turned. All of the Buddhas had Technicolor lights the danced around his head, almost like a halo.

When I saw a boy in pink chanting, Moe explained to me that it was actually a girl and she was a young nun. I had no idea that the Buddhist faith had Nuns as well, for I had never seen any. Then he explained that there are two types of schools public and monastic. He said the monastic school is the best school system. He said this novice nun was more than likely attending a monastic school, thus why she was dressed in pink. Even when the children are attending the monastic schools and go home in the afternoon, they are still expected to wear the traditional dress of red or pink.