4am in the morning, even before the roosters; and my broken sleep was severed once again by what seemed like evangelical duff-duff or disco blaring from loudspeakers across this town – the third most significant place in Myanmar for Buddhists.
This is Kyaiktiyo, the town closest to where there is a huge rock which looks like it is defying gravity and balancing precariously….and people; actually only men are allowed to place some gold leaf on. I have seen photographs of it some years ago, and it seems that more recently there has been a golden umbrella; which is the term for the spire of a pagoda; has been erected atop of this large rock.
We are visiting here today – so I will be able to learn more and understand about its’ significance then. I’m not too sure whether I understand the significance of the loudspeakers at the entrance of every monastery or temple with blaring what I feel is discordant sound from a CD, and usually 4 people two each side of the road shaking a large silver bowl. I have been told it is ‘fund raising’…which must be the new term for begging these days here.
My slight cynicism has been brought about from sleep deprivation as I’m finding this blaring, religious evangelical Buddhism across Myanmar and in the larger towns, actually like torture for me. What ever happened to ‘mindfulness’…. Reflection and Peace and Calm???
Midnight, the blaring manifesto bombarded the glass on our hotel room and reverberated and grated within it. Because I am sensitive and have attuned myself to be so; I’m finding it quite an assault on my nervous system and I know that I am making a judgement about another culture’s practices…. but Really????? Who thought this up??? I honestly can’t imagine Buddha imagining that this discordant noise and practice would be what elevates Souls to reach a state of Nirvana. I didn’t see any reference to this type of practice in ANY of the murals explaining Buddha’s life in any of the temples. Even in Morocco the call to prayer went only for about 5 minutes and then people were left to do their own thing. Here, the CD’s are unrelenting. A jazz version is blaring right now – 5am.
Anyway enough of that; time to get a grip and embrace the culture I am visiting; and back to reflecting on my day yesterday and writing my post.
Buddhist monks in robes walked barefoot in a single line; eldest to youngest. Bikes navigated their way through traffic laden with vegetables and chickens hanging upside down by their ankles. The coloured foil and packaging of chip and lolly packets gleamed intermittently along the street. Vans were bulging with people wearing pyramid shaped woven hats – all going to work; likely in the fields or the roads. The constant stream of trucks continued. Carts overflowing with hay were being pulled along by pairs of bullocks….. and all this was at 7.30 in the morning!!!
Here in Myanmar people seem to be more in harmony with not only the cycles of the moon for their celebrations and festivals; but in harmony with the daylight hours as well, and are up and about at first light…. unlike in India where there is little retail or work activity before 11am. Retail activity seems to cease around dark and when the sun goes down most of the stock has been packed away. I think it must have something to do with power. In India 60% of power is stolen and not paid for. Here is different. There isn’t that much electrical power here to even steal.
Our guide Mr Tin stopped on the road and excitedly informed us that there was a wedding reception beside us and said we could go in. Oh my goodness! There was this party at 8am in the morning and the mother of the bride with one hand grabbed mine and pulled me in to the family celebrations; and with her other hand placed it on my back and directed me where to go. I was a little uncertain about whether I actually felt comfortable participating in this wedding ceremony… as we were literally ‘drop ins’.
Saffron rice and chicken was placed on the table where we were directed to sit and encouraged with enthusiasm to eat… and have more! We had just missed the formal part of the ceremony, but were there for the ‘party time’. The groom was so excited to see Penny, and asked if he could have a photograph with his new bride standing in front of Penny. I don’t think the bride quite knew what was going on… but it was amazing to be so generously welcomed into the family celebrations of two young people who have found and chosen their Soul mate to live their life with.
The drive further to the south was hot and the truck traffic was constant. Regardless of the never-ending stream of buses and trucks, it was a wonderful drive and one in which I learned more about the life of the people in Myanmar.
Rice is the staple food in this region and the flat plains at 15mts altitude is perfect for growing it. Most of the rice has been harvested now and is drying on any horizontal surface. Bare feet constantly shuffle over sheets of rice to turn it over constantly to face the sun and reduce the moisture level. Playing fields; driveways; footpaths; parking areas and even the pedestrian walkway over bridges is used to spread and dry rice.
Plump bags of dried rice are then carefully stacked on to trucks and taken to mills where the husk is removed, and piles of husks mound along the road for use in feed and fertilizer with poultry manure.
I am noticing the increase in temperature as we drive closer to the equator and reminds me of summer at home.
We drove through an area along the river where the catfish hang, salted and drying in the sun like espaliered pieces of flesh. The patterns look amazing… I haven’t been game to taste any…. the flies have put me off a bit… and the smell…. well that is something else. I’m sure prepared in a meal the dried catfish would be lovely…. and I’m thinking it is an acquired taste when one is hungry and a necessary protein. I have been so fortunate in my life to have such an abundance of healthy food available to not only nourish myself, but truly enjoy the taste of as well.
So today we are off to see the rock that is defying gravity. Oh… Speaking of defying gravity…. I am astounded by how poised the women who carry platters of produce on their heads walk effortlessly through the traffic. It is quite beautiful to watch them walking offering for sale mandarins; sweets; rice rolls; fruit and vegetables – all from a silver platter balanced on their head. I haven’t seen how things are managed when someone wants a bag of mandarins….whether she brings the platter down. I suspect that is the case.
Well.. I’m a bit grumpy this morning and not my usual enthusiastic self. I just need a better nights sleep I think and when I get on the road I’m sure Penny will take me along so the Buddhist duff-duff will fade into the wind as we enter Thailand tomorrow..