February 8, 2010

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.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Katie,
    The Buddhism teaches us to take off our shoes and hats in front of monks/nuns/pagodas to show our deep respect,pureness and devotion. That's why monks and nuns have to shave their hairs off and live austere lifestyles for the real eternal goal of life.
    In fact, I still want to hug my parents and my bro, though there is much difficulty in our culture. We don't usually hug each other. We just shake our hands(sometimes) and show our feeling with eyes.
    You might have shaken his hands or just say "thank you very much"- it's perfectly okay for burmese.