Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Mingalabar from Myanmar

We are in Myanmar and Mingalabar is how we say "hello." Myanmar was once a British colony just like the United States. We have 50 states and Myanmar has 14. We visited the western state of Rakhine to learn about Mrauk U, one of Myanmar’s oldest Buddhist historical sites. Most people in Myanmar are Buddhist. We had to fly one hour from Yangon, the largest city, and then take a boat up the river for six hours. We visited a temple with over 80,000 statues of Buddha but saw many other interesting things.

We were surprised to see many American Willys Jeeps. They are left over from WW II. We thought it was amazing that vehicles more the 60 years old were still in use. Myanmar has many interesting things to see and do. We liked driving along the streets of the village in the Jeep. The children would rush out to meet us and shout, "Bye Bye." We stopped to watch people making hats and fans out of bamboo. There is always something interesting to see.
One day we took a boat up another river to Chin State. We love boat rides because the scenes along the river are so interesting. There were ladies washing their clothes in the river because they don’t have running water in their houses. Many people were fishing. Everyone stopped to wave to us. We visited two Chin villages. It is very hot in Chin State so most people live in bamboo houses built on stilts. It allows the air to flow all around making it cooler. Also it keeps the animals out. The older ladies have beautiful designs tattooed on their face. We asked, "Why do you have tattoos and the younger women do not?" They explained, "Many years ago there was a king who would take the prettiest girls to his palace so we tattooed our face so we would not look pretty. We did not want to leave our families." We wanted to know if it hurt to have the tattoos. One lady explained, "Yes, it hurt a lot and I was sick in bed for one week."
We visited a Chin school. We saw hopscotch squares drawn in the dirt. It is a game that children all over the world play. There was only one room in the school but five grades. That was all they needed because there were only 23 students. Each grade had their own table and benches plus a blackboard with their assignments on it. Notice some of them have light yellow powder on their face. It is very common and called thanaka. Men, women, and children wear it to protect them from the sun. We were surprised to see they were learning English. The children sang "Frere Jacques" in English. The French lady in our tour group, said, "It is a French song, not an English song." She tried to teach them the French words. We explained that in America children know the song in French and English. Then the students stood at attention and sang a song in their own language. It was a very nice song about how important it is to study hard and do good work in school. Notice some of them are wearing long wrap around skirts. It isw called a longyi and worn by men and women. It is perfect for the hot climate in Myanmar.

When we returned to Yangon we visited the International School of Yangon. It is like the schools in the United States. Cars were lined up outside with parents dropping off their children. The teachers are from Australia, England, and the United States. The students use all the same books as in the United States. The halls were decorated for Valentine’s Day and there were posters on the walls. One poster said "Don’t Run in the Hall." We did a power point presentation about schools around the world. When the teacher wanted everyone to be quiet she clapped her hands once then all the children joined in and together they clapped their hands in rhythm five times. All was quiet. We liked that. It seems that students in Myanmar have many things in common with students in the United States.
Many people from all over the world come to visit Myanmar. They like to see the historical sites, meet the people and to enjoy the beautiful beached. We spent five days relaxing at Amazing Resort in Ngapali Beach. Just like all it Myanmar it was amazing.