Monday, March 23, 2015

Visiting Myanmar's Golden Rock

Mingalabar is how we say “hello” in Myanmar. Myanmar was once
called Burma.  It is nicknamed the “Golden Country” because it has so many beautiful golden temples.  One of the most amazing golden holy sites we have seen is the Golden Rock.  Myanmar people try to visit this holy Buddhist site at least
once a year.  The Golden Rock is a very large rock covered with gold leaf and balanced on a flat rock on a mountain that is 3600 feet high.  Getting there was fun.  At the bottom of the mountain there were trucks lined up to take people up the twisty nine-mile mountain road. We climbed into the back of a
truck with rows of narrow, padded benches - six to a bench and ten rows. Some people walk up the mountain but it takes hours. The ride up the mountain takes about 30 minutes.  After we climbed out of the truck it was still about a 30-minute uphill walk to the
Golden Rock. Most people walk but some hire a sedan chair with four porters to take them the rest of the way. It is said that 2,500 years ago Buddha gave one hair to a hermit who carried it until he found a boulder that looked like a head.  The hermit built a pagoda on top of the rock to hold the sacred hair. The rock and pagoda has survived several violent earthquakes.  It is amazing. 

Another amazing place is a hotel on the Bay of Bengal (get your
map out and see if you can find it and Myanmar). The hotel is
called Amazing Ngapali Beach which is the perfect name.  The people at the hotel are wonderful and very kind to us.  We love the beach. Each day a lady comes along with fresh fish and prawns asking us to eat at her restaurant. They told us about a school nearby started
by an English lady, Susan Ozturk (Mama Sue), where the students learn English. The school is called the Vera Thomson English School. It was named after Mama Sue’s mother who was a very kind lady. Calling older people “mama” and “papa” is a way to show respect but does not mean that they are their parents.  

We did a program at the school.  They had a lot of computers but
many of them didn’t work.  It is very hot in Myanmar and there is a long rainy season which is not good for the computers.  Also, they do not have electricity 24-hours a day so that causes a problem, too. The school is free and has about 300 students.  We were impressed. In one classroom the boys sat on one side and the girls on the other.  When the teacher, Chaw Su
Khaing, asked a question the students eagerly raised their hands to answer.  When the teacher called on them they stood up to answer. The children spoke excellent English. When we asked the students what they wanted to be, most said tour guides but one young man who spoke excellent English said he wanted to be an English teacher.  Without Mama Sue’s school they would not have the chance. 

Notice some of the people have cream-colored powder on their
face.  It is called thanaka and protects the skin from the sun. It is very popular in Myanmar but things are changing. At one time all the people (men and women) wore long wraparound skirts called longyis.  Many people still do but now some people are wearing more Western-style clothing.  One day we were on the beach and the students from Mama Sue’s rode by on their bikes and yelled “Mingalabar.”  It is easy to make friends in Myanmar!