February has just ended, and we’ve been working here for eight months. As always, students are fun to be with both inside and outside the classroom. The second semester in S.A.G. has successfully finished. Because summer promises to be a hectic time in this institute, summer classes will soon to open with the onset of the four various programs offered here. There will also be some changes and adjustments both in the academic and administrative sides of S.A.G. So, many preparations should be done.
The most exciting journey I had for this month was when I, my co-volunteers, Fr. Paul, Tr. Yi, and Tr. Lay went out with the 3rd years for their four-day field trip. We journeyed into the furthest depths of ancient history, in one of the most magical places we have visited that’s stuck in time: Bagan, Myanmar. This temple town is one of Myanmar’s main attractions. Because of the trip, I’m glad that I got to know about them well for I haven’t taught 3rd years until now. Some of them I already knew because of the thesis consultations they had with me.
We had reached Popa National Park, a well-known high mountain on the way to Bagan, as the first destination during the first day of our explorations. I was even surprised to see a bunch of monkeys walking and running around the place. As far I know, they’re supposed to be in a zoo. But, I heard that people couldn’t catch all of them because they’re just too many. Also, the mountain is really their home and people let them live in it as a sign of respect and tranquility. Students warned us to keep anything that might attract the monkeys like hats or tasty foods. As we went upstairs, a number of monkeys were following us and some students who were with me were so afraid of them. Perhaps, the monkeys would cling onto them tightly without letting go. The students were holding flowers that time for their Buddhist prayer and offering. They gave me one as well so that the sellers around the pagoda would not beg and ask me to buy their flowers. We were at the middle of the mountain when suddenly, a monkey picked up the flower’s petal that I was holding on my hand. I was in a shock and frightened that it would cling tightly on my back. Some monkeys were sticking at other students either on their legs or at their back. In addition, I couldn’t forget that I stepped on the monkey’s pee which was sticky. That too was a funny yet memorable experience for me.
Throughout our trip to Bagan, we visited a lot of places that I couldn’t count them all. There, we stayed in a monastic shelter for two nights only. We slept separately as girls were told to sleep inside the place, whereas boys were to sleep in an open area outside. My first night there was a bit terrible: I was bitten by mosquitoes! I forgot to set up a mosquito net at the place where I slept. But in the end, I was able to cover myself with the thick blanket I had.
Anyway, it was such a fun experience going to the top just see the lovely sunrise and sunset view of Bagan. I’d seen lots of foreign people too waiting for the perfect coming of dawn and dusk.What I had seen from the Google pictures about the place was indeed true like the hot-air balloons drifting on the air. When we were at the top taking pictures, I couldn’t help myself but to appreciate things that I have and how blessed I am to be here. Everywhere I go and every time I step on a place I’ve never been before, I know that there could be new insights waiting for me to discover.
We’d traveled from place to place going to Manuha Temple, Bagan Archaeological Museum, and more famous places in Bagan. I never thought that I could dynastically dressed up again as King Manuha together with my co-volunteers and a student.
After exploring Bagan for the first two days, our bus headed towards Mandalay, Myanmar’s second-largest city and a former capital of Myanmar. It also has many exciting and wonderful things. You’ll see lots of concrete buildings everywhere and traffic like in a typical city. We moved and stayed to another monastic shelter at that place. However, the four of us: I, my two co-volunteers, and a student wouldn’t be staying longer that we only spent travelling around Mandalay for one day and a half. But, that was not a bad thing. At least, we travelled lots of places already like U Bein Bridge which is believed to be the oldest and longest teakwood bridge in the world, as well as Werawsana Jade Pagoda in Amarapura Township, the world’s first jade pagoda in Myanmar.
Volunteering has been one of my greatest decisions in life so far and I’m very happy to have been given the opportunity to meet new people each time I venture outside my comfort zone. There have been a few days where I feel totally at home and almost as if I was never away.