Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Markets, Orphanage and Train

Beetle-nut salesman and customers. Many piles of red spit in Myanamr.

Seller of soccer shorts. Will bought the blue and black and red and black plaid ones. Joel's were purple.

For day four in Yangon we participated in a Semester at Sea Impact Field Program. The Impact programs are geared towards service and community involvement. We (about 40 people) started out the day with the shuttle into town, a ferry ride across the Yangon River and then a bumpy ride in four hot, mosquito-infested, vans across the eastern edge of the Irawaddy Delta to the small town of Twante. There we explored the local market—where Joel and Will both found some very cheap soccer pants (plaid ones for Will) and we visited pottery shops where large water holding receptacles are made with UN funding. These pots are made with a mix of ground rice hulls which then make the pots porous enough to allow water to seep out and in the process be filtered of many impurities. 

After lunch we then descended upon the orphanage attached to the Phayagi Mingalar Monastery (Buddhist). The orphanage has the feel of a boarding school. Here 900 students are housed, fed and taught by volunteer teachers. Many of the children are survivors of cyclone Nargis that killed over a 100,000 Burmese living in the Irawaddy Delta. Others of the children were sent to the orphanage by parents who no longer can provide for the children due to the destruction of crops and fields by the cyclone. We took with us indestructible soccer balls, badminton equipment, special Burmese face cream for face painting, thousands of tooth brushes, and a monetary contribution. After a welcome ceremony we were turned loose to play with the middles school kids—the elementary children had testing that day. It took a while to get play groups going, but before long Joel, Will, two SAS female students and about six Burmese boys (in sarongs/longyis) started playing soccer on the coarse, hot sand of the school yard (which really tore up the boys feet). Marie and Sarah stayed in the large school hall where a dozen or more groups of female students and females from SAS braided hair, painted faces and then played games like duck, duck goose. I roamed around taking photos of all of the activites. After 90 minutes of hot and humid fun it was time to leave. I don’t think we made much of a lasting contribution to the lives of the children, but we did provide a good excuse for them to skip classes and have some fun with some very supportive and loving foreigners. Hopefully our visit and the accompanying gifts showed them that there are people who care about them. I have always thought that running an orphanage would have been a fulfilling career. I still think that. 

For our final day in Yangon we decided to ride the entire route of the circle line train. It was an entertaining three hours watching people come and go as we passed through interesting urban and rural landscapes. I stood at the open door most of the time taking photos. At about midpoint of the journey, most of our car had emptied of its passengers. I was standing near the door when a man approached me and motioned for me to sit down. I thought it was a curious request and didn’t think it was necessary, but when he motioned a second time, I decided to take heed. Moments after sitting, the car burst alive with new passengers, leaping through windows and doors to then pull in bale after bale of vegetables headed to market. Before we knew it we were all pinned to our seats by an aisle stacked full of produce. Sarah ended up sitting between a Buddhist monk and a female farmer. It was one the most entertaining five minutes we have had this whole journey.

Watch a video clip here:

After completing the commuter circle, we headed to the Thai restaurant Sarah and I enjoyed a few days ago. How things have changed. While there, we reminisced about the time years ago, when Joel was about 7 or 8, that we went to our first Thai restaurant after a trip to the Spanish Fork Hindu Temple to hear the BYU gamelan and to watch the festival of color. Joel was tired and hungry and not happy at all to be eating strange new food. It is a different story now as we all enjoyed the spicy food.

We then returned to Scott Market for Marie and the boys to have a turn at shopping. While Marie and Sarah shopped at one stall for longyi (with the help of Sarah’s friend form the other day), the boys and I picked out male longyi (Burmese sarongs) from a neighboring stall. We then visited our jade nativity friend where we picked up a few more gifts. A final purchase was some wood carved sling shots for Will to give to friends, but they were confiscated by ship security because they fall under the list of weapons banned from the ship. We had hoped that the strict security office would give us a professorial break (I told him we would hide them from our boys until the journey was done) but that doesn’t seem to have worked. My guess is they have been incinerated with the ship trash and other confiscated contraband.

We all agree, Myanamr is an amazing country to visit. The people we met were so friendly. Also impressive were the ever present visual reminders of religious devotion. Next time I hope to be able to head north to Bagan and Mandalay.

Additional photos added much later:

 Port of Yangon--but not for Cruise Liners or large ships.

 eggs for sale

 A thirst for knowledge.

 Japan and the US are trying to counter the growing influence of China in Myuanmar.

 Beetle nut spit.

 Fatehr/Daughter icons of independence and democracy.

 Twante market.

 Sifting rice hulls to mix in with the clay.

 Flags of Buddhism and Burma (right)

 Colonial waterfront.

 Jumping through the window to help load bundles of produce.

This newspaper was passed around and shared with many willing readers among the produce sellers. It made me happy to see the fruits of recent moves in Myanmar towards greater openess and freedom.

 Hindu temple in the south India style.

 Friendly jade merchant who at my recommendation wants to create and start selling jade nativities.

 He made the nativities!

Sailing down the Rangoon River

 Irrawaddy Delta

 Muddy waters of the Rangoon River meet the Bay of Bengal.

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