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Elaine and Peter’s Travel Diary

Wednesday, 30 Mar 2016

Location: Danuphy, Myanmar

MapMyanamar's past position as a pariah state has ensured that most of the traditions have remained intact. How long now before China takes over I wonder.

The Burmese society itself is characterised by oriana, the all pervasive avoidance od doing anything that would offend, make someone lose face or embarrass. It is to do with the merit earned in previous lives. It is considered rude for instance to touch a person's head as this is the highest point of the body. And so it is taboo to touch a person's feet.
The Burmese are remarkably polite people and rarely have we seen any altercations. The children look after the tiniest children whilst the mother does the chores. School is out for three months at the moment so there are plenty of children about all adorable and all happy. They are remarkably polite and deferential to their elders and also to strangers.
They seem a very proud people, up at dawn to begin the day.

Tonight we moored by the worst slums we have yet seen. Shacks of polythene and bamboo housing whole families surrounded by rubbish at the water's edge. W seat on our balcony transfixed by their routine. These people were famines of those who worked on the dredgers. The women spent a long time painting must onto their faces and meticulous
They spent a long time combing their long dark hair and adding fresh flowers into the partings.
The children meantime, fetched the water in buckets from the river whilst the elder women started the fires to boil up their breakfast of noodles in the most battered of tins. And boy did they scrub them clean after use, albeit with water from the river.
Everyone had a place.

We did find the state of these people upsetting, so much so that we found some t shirts to take out and give as gifts!!

This town seemed to have a bit more money. It is where a famous general Maha Bandula lead Burmese defensive against the British during the first Anglo Burmese war.
And so a monastery was named after him.
Our trishaw too us to spend a little time with the monks there.
From the age of nine each male must spend some time however briefly the monastery. One of guides is preparing for his son to enter for a week at the end of April. Each applicant must have a sponsor who can pay for his education, usually a parent, grandparent or a friend of the family who has the money.
The applicant has to spend some considerable time studying the scriptures and preparing for his celibacy before the induction ceremony. When the time comes, he is taken to a special section of the monastery for questioning to see if he is suitable. Any one who is homosexual is rejected. So are the physically impaired. If a novice enters the monk hood, he is expected to be able to travel by what ever means to any place where there is a need for him and so the physically impaired do not meet that criteria. Until he has entered thebmonkhood, a male is held to be inhuman and lower than an animal.
As part of his preparation to be a novice, he must look at his behaviours. He must not take food after 12, food which is often prepared for him in the monastery dining room by locals who donate the food. He is not allowed to sing or play, use the thanaka cosmetics, sit anywhere other than the floor, own any money, kill,or steal or have sex with another person. If he breaks any of these laws he is ousted. Yet an elder monk can earn 800 dollars each month!!!!!
When you think that a family of 8 can be fed for one dollar!!

We finished off this fascinating morning by visiting a small family run cheroot factory, it is one room of a house where there is a slick operation at each stage in the making of the cheroots mostly smoked by elder women.
The most widely used form of addiction is the chewing of the betal nut which is the one which makes the teeth brown and discoloured.

During late afternoon, we sailed further south to the city of Maubin. This is a very pretty stretch of the river.

After dinner we joined some of the crew in the bar on the deck. They brought their guitars and sang songs to celebrate the birthday of the nation . Today had been the inauguration of the new prime minister, obviously something which means a lot, particularly to the young.
We felt very privileged to be able to share this day with these lovely young people.