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.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Katie! It is informative,funny and interesting to read.You observed fully about the town I live(Rangoon/Yangon)and I couldn't stop laughing myself.
    I didn't even think about the reason why we wear longyi(long skirts as u said)for squatting in toilets, which seems quite right. But actually, it is the traditional costume of Burmese/ Thai/ some people in south east asia, just like those of muslims or indians.
    You could see the chaos in the former capital city of Burma. It is like an old 1900 town which is not renovated nor upgraded.
    The person inside the bus along with the driver is called "spare" ("spare yar" in burmese)who collects money from new passengers and tries to settle traffic jam with his hands/whistles and pays money for toll-gates.
    You can see many systems of the town reflecting that of British--British style buildings,British system of measurements(lb,cm,yards),etc.