20 January, 2012

Burmese Daze

My first trip to Myanmar was solo, born out of a desire to see Bagan for years. My partner had given me the gold bracelet to sell to buy domestic tickets to fly while there. But, I could not sell it….yet. The political situation there was just beginning to ease, and since I had held off for ten years now was the time when my partner had told me of a airline sale last summer. I booked 13 days, and it became quickly obvious while there, that 13 days is not enough time. I then decided to not rush between cities to get the most of the time there, but instead to just spend 3-5 days in a few places and let things unfold naturally.

I arrived Yangon early morning, and once I dropped off luggage at my guest house, I headed with two European women on a local bus for Shwedagon Pagoda. One paid my way on the bus, because I had no time to change money since I arrived.

We split and walked around. An hour later, I was walking around when a gold and diamond earring-like object fell at my feet from the top of Shwedagon. It was like a ¼ carat diamond in a gold setting that was probably given to the Pagoda for the umbrella. I looked at at a Burmese couple near by and showed it to them, then just gave it to them knowing as Myanmar people they would give it the right person on the property. I know they have a firm sense of kamma and would never keep it, as much as I do. I spent another two hours there talking to monks and shooting photographs.

I later went to change money at the market, and have a late Indian lunch with a Myanmar man I met. He showed me around and then we when back to Shwedagon for sunset. My first night ended with a late dinner of spicy eel.

On the second day I talked with another monk(named the same as my home sangha, Aloka) for an hour at Sule Pagoda, and mentioned that I wanted to bring food for the novices. He said we can go the following day to a Wat near his small temple, so I made an appointment with him. That evening I stopped at a few book stores to find dhamma books and being referred to one, I got to talking to the owner, who gave me his card and was excited to be able to help a fellow buddhist find a temple to meditate in when I return. I have to get a meditation visa, and he will help with the letter of acceptance when I do wrap it up.

This was one of the many people who would go out of their way to help, even when there is no financial gain or kickbacks. I found a really good Kid's Vipassana primary in English, and it stirred up my desire to teach kids to meditate. It sure would helped me as a young man.

In the way out of the guest house I bought enough food for 100 novices, and treats knowing that the small boys are allowed to eat in the evening since they are growing. I found a local man who helped with the transaction and he got a cigarette tip from the owner of the shop. We walked over to give the food at morning meal at temple and I got to talk to the head monk who then gave me a tour of his school. It combines dhamma and regular subjects in what feels like a relaxed atmosphere. I saw novices reading after morning meal, with no formality.They all smiled at me at me from behind various books on geography and sports.

The head monk said he has two schools and luckily in a well–off suburb in Yangon. And because of this the sangha nearby who cooks for the monks provides great meals. And with all coincidences in life the head monks name(Sorado) was the same as the one I sat with in Chonburi for two weeks in October. I wanted to go to a needy monastery but so was my luck this time.

The day continued with Aloka seeing other temples and talking until ‘the bacteria’ got me, and I had to head back to the guest house to get on my antibiotics I brought.
It was the cusp of a full moon and who knows what might happen. Anyway I owe a Myanmar family copies of the photograph of their new son I took at Shwedagon because I had the camera skills to do so...and I promised. From the window of my guest house I shot a Buddhist full moon procession in the street. It became obvious early on to get the camera out of your face and interact with the lovely Burmese.

No comments:

Blog Widget by LinkWithin