We hopped in a taxi to travel 2 hours southwest of Yangon to visit a friend’s home village called Ley Aing Su. On our drive to the village, the taxi driver had to stop for gas, which meant that we all needed to get out of the car. Everyone was squatting near the side of the road, so I decided to join in. As I began to squat, it felt like my pants had split, but I figured I was being paranoid so I continued to squat. A little later, I decided to check and sure enough, my pants had split right up the middle. Luckily, only two women were behind me! I thought, what a great start to the trip….
Fortunately, the rest of the trip was fun and intriguing. The village is in a tropical area impacted heavily by monsoon season, and we visited in the heart of monsoon season. The houses in the village are built on stilts so that they aren’t flooded by the standing water. The water level was so high that a few of the pathways in the village were flooded and you have to wade through the water to cross. A majority of the people in the village are people from the Karen ethnic group, and a lot of people speak Karen language.
After arriving to the village, we had mohinga, which is a delicious rice noodle and fish soup dish. We rested for a little while because we left Lumbini Academy early in the morning to head to the village. In the afternoon, right as it started to rain, we decided to leave the house. We went walking through our friend’s family’s papaya fields in the middle of a torrential downpour. There are no paths to go through the fields, so we walked on slippery mud, jumped over deep pools of water, and tried our best not to fall meanwhile holding an umbrella in an attempt to not get soaked by the rain. I brought with me a small, purse sized umbrella, which did not hold up against the monsoon season rain, and so I got soaked.
While soaking wet, we visited the village’s library. The library had recently celebrated its 25 years of existence, and a new library was being built next to it. The library contained some old books in Burmese and posters and pictures of important people to the library and monastery.
Some books in the library
We spent the rest of the day eating delectable Burmese food, relaxing, and drinking some Myanmar beer. At night we talked with some of our friends’ relatives through the help of our two Burmese friends’ translation. We asked her relatives what they want the rest of the world to know about Myanmar. Overwhelming they said that they want people to know that Burmese people are kind, honest, hospital, and they love their religion. I couldn’t agree more with their assessment.
We all slept upstairs under a massive mosquito net. We slept on straw mets with a thin comforter beneath us and a wool blanket on top of us. The space doesn’t have air conditioning, but we were able to have fans near us to mitigate some of the heat. Early in the morning, around 6am, Burmese music started blasting through a blue funnel taped to a speaker on a large van. The van was going around the village to pick up children to go to the monastery to learn. That being said, we woke up fairly early.
We had more mohinga and then headed out to explore the village. While exploring, we saw a Baptist church, and the pastor invited us in for tea. Another woman working with the church joined. She had previously been teaching Burmese refugees living in Thailand along the Myanmar Thailand border. In 2022, the Baptist church will celebrate 100 years of existence. Out of about 10,000 people in the village, 1,000 are Christians and about 250 attend this Baptist church.
As we continued our walk, I noticed that a lot of homes got electricity through solar panels. This was exciting to see and also makes sense. It is a lot easier and cheaper to get electricity through solar panels than to build the infrastructure to supply electricity to the village. After wandering a little, we got on a a rickety boat to visit a village across the lake.
The boat we took to cross the lake
This village had even more standing water throughout it. It was cool to see the types of bridges and pathways that people had created to circumvent the flooding. Children were playing in pools of water in what I imagine are fields during the winter and summer. The village had all sorts of animals: dogs, cats, chickens, ducks, pigs, cows.
Woman crossing the bridge to get home
The area where children were playing
We took the boat back to our friend’s village, had lunch, and then headed back to Yangon. Traipsing through the papaya fields was fun and entertaining, talking with some of our friends’ relatives was insightful, and walking around the villages was intriguing and informative. It was a great way for me to dive back into culture and lifestyle in Myanmar!