Myanmar used to be called Burma. It is amazingly similar in shape to Alaska. It sits between two peninsulas. India is on the west, and Myanmar borders it at the top (northeast) of the Indian peninsula. Then it runs a long finger down the west side of the peninsula comprised of Thailand, Laos and Cambodia, though it only borders on Thailand.
I've been to Ethiopia, Kenya, and India, and it's interesting to see the people get more and more oriental as you go east. Kenyans are full-fledged Africans, dark with the tightly curled hair you see in African-Americans. Ethiopians, however, are partly middle eastern. They have the big dark eyes of Indians, and their hair is sometimes straight, though they are clearly of some sort of negro origin.
Skipping over the Middle East, where I have not been, and over Pakistan, which lies between the Middle East and India, we come to the very dark, but clearly not negro, Indian people. I love their large, dark eyes, a trait they share with the Ethiopians. Myanmar borders India on the northeast, but India is a huge country. I met Mizo people, from the Indian state of Mizoram, while I was in Myanmar, and they did not look the same as the people in Kerala, down in southeast India. I don't know how to describe the difference. I do know that overall, the people I saw in Myanmar were an interesting mix of Indian and oriental. They were as dark as Indians, but they did not have the large, round eyes. Some of them had the Mongolian-style eyelid that make us call their eyes slanted, though they are not, but many didn't.
|Kenyan man with Kenyan broom||Myanmar children|
|Ethiopian couple||West Indian Women|
I went two places in Myanmar, Yangon and Kalaymyo (or Kalemyo if you try to look it up on the internet). Yangon is the capital, and it's also called Rangoon. I have not checked on why it has two names. It's a rather modern city. The electricity was on all the time I was there, which was a few days, and we stayed in a great hotel, every bit as nice as a Holiday Inn—maybe nicer—with a western shower/bathtub and great water pressure. It's called the Parkview Summit, and if you ever go there you won't be disappointed. The service is awesome, the hotel is nice throughout, and it sits very near a gigantic pagoda, which I really ought to have learned the name of, but never did. It's the largest pagoda in Asia, so it's probably also the largest in the world. There's a picture of it there on the right if you don't know what a pagoda is. The Buddhists have built them everywhere, all over Myanmar. This particular one is coated in gold. Really.
Anyway, I was in Myanmar to visit orphanages, and we visited several while we were there. Some friends tried to go see the pagoda, but I didn't. I opted for jogging around the pagoda on the grounds—in street shoes. I hadn't brought a change of shoes with me. The grounds were awesome. There was a large pond with a Buddhist shrine in the middle. I don't approve of idolatry, so obviously I didn't think the shrine was great, but the whole setup was beautiful. There were flowers planted everywhere and walkways going through them. Even my friends never got inside the pagoda. They were too distracted by all the other buildings around it.
From Yangon we flew to Kalaymyo. Kalaymyo is a much smaller town. It's electricity is not on much, but most people don't use it, anyway. Even the shops on the main road were often powerless. We did manage to get a hotel with electrical power, and they ran a couple generators when Kalaymyo's power wasn't working...if it was dark and it was the time of day people might be awake. Basically, power was off after 9 a.m., when breakfast closed, every day we were there.
The kids at the orphanage were awesome. Some of the orphanages are very poor, so if you want to help them, you can go to Orphan's Tear and sponsor one or more. We had a great time playing games with them, being hugged, and generally having a great time. 3rd world orphanages are living proof that money doesn't buy happiness. The kids in the orphanages I've been to—which are supported by responsible ministries and run by godly couples that love children and were often orphans themselves—are far happier than American kids. Even at the Handicap Care Center, which had all crippled children, we were greeted by joy and excitement.
Some of the more interesting things about Myanmar itself include the use of jackets and coats by Myanmar citizens. The temperature never got below about 65 while we were there, but we saw people in coats, scarves, and winter hats when riding a bicycle or motor scooter in the morning. Jackets and flannel sweaters were common even as the temperature got into the high 70's. It was amazing. In Kalaymyo, there was very little car or truck traffic. Almost all the traffic was bicycles and motor scooters. The "taxis" that you could get were bicycle rickshaws. That's a bicycle with a sort of a sidecar that sat two people, one facing frontwards and one back. When Chashaq and I got in one together, that rickshaw rider was groaning a bit to get it started. I'm sure he wasn't used to hauling 400 pounds of American beef on that bicycle. Myanmar people are pretty small. We made sure to pay him well when we got to our destination.
|At a mere 70o that morning, the Kalaymyo resident in the background found it necessary to wear a coat.|
Most vehicles we saw—in Kalaymyo, not Yangon, which had a lot of car and van traffic—were jeeps with the backs elongated a bit into a sort of pickup truck look, but with a roof on the back. People sit on two benches facing each other, and ,like India, Ethiopia, and Kenya, they can really pack them in. We rode around in a vehicle like that when we went to visit the orphanages.
|Our jeep had a top over the back and a hood on the engine, but this had neither.|
Originally, I was going to continue this. I worked on this while I was still under the influence of jet lag, and I had to quit to go to sleep. Now, I'm not sure whether I need to add to this or not. If I think of something real interesting later, I'll add it. I hope you enjoyed it!