The weather in Taunggyi is quite unpredictable, it can rain and be sunny all in the space of a few hours. In fact, we have had plenty of rain this month and the winter season here is fast approaching so I should get ready for it. This will be my first time to experience how it’s like to live in a strictly cold-weather destination. But still, I always hope that I’ll not be defeated by this weather just as I promised to myself. It’s still semester break at S.A.G and this is known to be the longest break that the school has for the entire school year. The teachers were given one week to enjoy their vacation with their loved ones. Whereas, the students are still attending their distance education called as U.D.E. (University of Distance Education) at their respective places or hometowns for more or less two months. And as for me, I’ve spent the whole month having lots of school planning with my co-volunteers, Tr. Yi and Fr. Paul for the upcoming 2nd semester since we’re just staying here. I heard that there’ll be several changes in S.A.G. not just in its program, but also in the administration. The library will be opened soon and the handbook for the integrated program should be worked on to be given to the students. In our vacant time, we also helped Fr. Paul fixing, arranging and organizing some stuff at home especially in the kitchen. We often do household chores since we’re the ones who live in the house. Several improvements were established at home and also the school itself.
These days, I’ve also been working for the unit plan for my weekend class, course syllabus, as well as standards and competencies for the integrated program. October is indeed a busy work time for most teachers here at S.A.G. However, there are at times when we could also spend our vacation like attending the Paung Daw Oo Pagoda’s Festival (celebrated over nearly three weeks each October) in Inle Lake. Four Buddha images were taken around the lake in a gilded barge pulled by several men who rowed the boat through the use of their leg. There were Shan dances and martial arts performances in the festival too. In addition, there were exciting leg-rowing boat races with teams representing various villages around the lake. They were actually using their skills and strength to win the race. Many people from various tribes gathered in that region just to gain merit and at the same time, to enjoy the competition and festivities. I really enjoyed witnessing the splendid festival with Fr. Paul and some S.A.G. students who went with us. Aside from that, Tr. Moe Thu’s friend who worked as a tourist guide, treated us in a restaurant which I think is expensive during lunch time. To be honest, the foods that I’ve eaten there remind me of some Filipino dishes and cuisines.
Recently, we’ve been to an old monastery at Inle Lake again where the community gathering took place. Tr. Yi was the one who invited us since her family most especially her grandfather, is one of the people who helped in organizing the fruitful gathering. Too bad we didn’t stay long that time. We only had the whole morning meeting some relatives and family members of Tr. Yi, eating some traditional foods which were served by the townspeople and waiting for the sermon or chant given by the Buddhist monks to finish. While the sermon was still ongoing, I was actually observing and looking at the people there. On a sudden thought, I was overwhelmed with the number of people who were in the monastery and the way they prepared their festivities with the help of one another. And for some reason, their culture is the same with Filipinos in that “close family ties” have also been recognized from them but more than that. It’s like “close community ties”. There exists a strong mutual relationship among them bonded by love, unity, understanding, and respect towards one another. With this setup, members of the clan and the community retain their values and closeness. Teacher Yi also shared that the festivity will become even more exciting and fun at night because the whole community usually entertain themselves through playing jokes, dancing, singing, storytelling, and more.
I gained a lot of new insights into the Burmese family culture and traditions, as well as the development of S.A.G. in this month. As of now, we are still halfway in our school planning and preparation. We know for a fact that Myanmar used to have the best education system in Asia, yet over the last few decades, standards have plunged. As a foreign volunteer, I inspire my students to bring out the best of what they are and of what they can be. And in my own little way, I help make this institute a better place by doing my responsibilities well for the betterment of the school and the students. My fruitful deeds are already prayers in action and I try to be better each day.