I've arrived in Burma safe and sound! (The WIFI at my guesthouse wasn't working when I arrived and the city's power went out for a few hours last night - it's going to be an interesting month!)
I’ve only been in Yangon, Burma’s biggest city, for two days but considering the amount of people I’ve met who already feel like friends, it feels like much longer.
My first two days here have gone something like this:
After checking into my guesthouse I set off to explore the city. I wandered into a small pagoda near my guesthouse and was promptly invited in for lunch by a group of monks and muggles (the official term for non monks).
|The Shwe Bone Pwint Pagoda|
One of the monks was sitting in a chair at the head of the room (everybody else was on the floor). He’s been a monk for almost 70 years and is a pretty big deal at this particular pagoda. You see so many monks in this part of the world that you get kind of desensitized to how amazing it actually is to meet such dedicated and respected people, but meeting this particular monk reminded me just how special it is to be in their presence. After hanging out with my new group of friends for a while, I learned how to say "I come back tomorrow" in Burmese, and promised to return the next day.
|His title & name: Ba Da Na War Ya Ma (major tongue twister!)|
The following afternoon I returned as promised, and was greeted like an old friend. I sat chatting for a while, eating an orange I'd just been offered by another monk (who has since added me on Skype). Just when I thought people at the pagoda couldn't get any friendlier, a huge group of kids wearing religious-looking uniforms came over to where I was sitting and excitedly started saying hello and asking my name. (Turns out these kids come to the pagoda once a week for a Buddhist class). I met their teacher (yet another monk) and he insisted we all take a group photo. I felt quite guilty as this seemed to cause quite a bit of chaos among all the people trying to pray, but the kids were so sweet that I couldn't feel too bad.
|Making new friends|
|Asking how old everyone is|
|The students, their teacher and I!|
After promising to return yet again the next day, I stepped outside the pagoda and immediately stopped to say hello to some stray dogs (the fact I haven't gotten rabies yet is a miracle). They seemed to be pretty fond of one woman in particular and I got to chatting with her, or as much as you can chat with someone who knows about three words of English. Her name was Ma Cho and I ended up staying at her little shop for close to an hour, "talking" and eating some food she had kindly offered me. Then it started to pour. I didn't have an umbrella with me, but Ma Cho was nice enough to loan me one of hers. "I come back tomorrow", I said in terrible Burmese, wanting to assure her that I would bring the umbrella back. She just smiled, obviously not the least bit concerned about loaning out her umbrella to someone she just met.
|Ma Cho with one of her strays|
These are just a few examples of how friendly people here have been. I can't count the number of times I've already been invited to sit down, have food/drink or just had people start chatting to me as I'm walking down the street. I could not have asked for a better start to my month in Burma, and I have a feeling I'm going to be saying the phrase "I come back tomorrow" quite bit while I'm here. This is exactly why I travel!
Other friendly faces...
|He referred to himself as 'mustache man'|
|This guy definitely made me dance with him...|
|Just chilling with a chicken|
|Family I met at the Shewdagon Pagoda|
|Loving Burma :)|