Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Mon State Celebreties

We arrived on May 11 into Yangon, exhausted, but happy to be there. We spent a day relaxing and checking in with our friends at the Dot Pon Zon Monestery whom we had met in 2002. We got to spend time with the Sayadaw there, who is 97 years old and doing well for his age. He used to travel lots, and now he's bedridden, but generally healthy and fun to speak with through a translator.

The monestery arranged for us to visit the native village of the Sayadaw, Krokpi, in Mon State. We were escorted by 3 monks on the over night aircon bus, and given snacks along the way to go with the blaringly loud and obnoxious Burmese comedys and sitcoms that ran on the dvd player all through the night. We got to stay in the monestery down there on mats and covered with mosquito nets. A group of monestery ladies cooked 3 meals a day for us. Adrian especially loved the way they hovered over us as they fed us fantastic spreads of local seafood, local fresh fruits (mangostein, jack fruit, rambutan, mango, pineapple), vegetables, and sweets, including fanning us with hand fans to keep the flies away as we ate. They also figured out Adrian's picky eating habits and prepared special foods for just him, like fried chicken, potatoes, rice, and french toast. They truly made us feel like kings and queens! And all for free, or course. We made a donation to the monestery when we left, but they really can teach us a lot about generousity.

We spent 3 days with them, and each day, the Sayadaw had arranged for "field trips" involving us and 2 full pickups of local persons. Once day we visited his "tower", a massive metal structure at the top of the highest point in the village, that you can climb and get a great view. It reminded Adrian of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, but not as high. All buildings in Mon are made of concrete or wood, so this metal structure was clearly influenced by the Sayadaw's western travels. Another day we visited an ancient monestery nearby to see Richard's old friend, U Agi, the builder of pagodas that Richard travelled with in 2000 (Winnipeg, Edmonton, and South Africa). On the last day, we went to the Burmese seaside. Richard and Adrian swam in the waves, while everyone else looked on. Burmese people rarely swim. They don't seem to know the idea of a fresh water swimming pool, and are intimidated by the salty waves of the rocky Sea of Bengal that is their coast.

Burmese people in general are super friendly and generous, but when you have friends of friends, they really go over board. We met so many people around the town. One man who had spent time in an Indian Boarding school as a child became our unofficial translator for 3 days and followed us everywhere. When I got 5 spider bites during my first night, I visited the local doctor's clinic (the doctor's wife is one of the cooking ladies) and was treated with antibiotics and a dressing, free of charge, of course. We also met a school teacher who invited us to her classroom. We talked about Canada and tried to get them to ask us questions about Canada, but mostly they were too shy. Its not their custom to ask questions, especially not in English. All the girls had huge crushes on Adrian, poor boy, and giggled around him lots. He's only 11 years old and not interested in girls yet, but he looks like he's 16 to them, and taller than most of their fathers already.

It was a bit exhausting to be such celebreties, and to have people around us non-stop, but it was also exactly what we were looking for- a real slice of Burma. We didn't talk about politics at all, but we did get to make a real heart connection with these people. When we left, they loaded us up with cigars, necklaces, and mon longyi (wrap around skirts for men and women). I already miss that fantastic food!

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