Generosity at Chauk Htat Gyi (Photos of the Myanmar People, Part I)
Dear Friends: It has been several months since I posted a blog with new photos and I feel I owe my readers an explanation. While “sometimes life gets in the way of the best laid plans” is apt in this case it isn’t a very specific answer. During the past year I journeyed to the Antarctic Peninsula, my technology company was acquired by a large firm, I changed jobs to return to a small tech company, and I became the curator (e.g., legal guardian) for my Aunt. The last of these was the most challenging by far. If I’m being truthful though, on top of all of those things (which reduced the time I had available to devote to my art) I also needed a “creative break” – a time to step back and re-energize. As we approach the end of 2015 I feel rejuvenated and am looking ahead to the New Year: to my new photographic collection (working title: “At the Edge of the Sky”) and to more journeys to main streets and back roads. And with that, I'd like to tell you about a few of the wonderful people I met on my latest journey to Myanmar….
What I remember most fondly about my visit to Myanmar this Fall are its people. As my readers know I am a traveler, having journeyed to six continents and dozens of countries. So, I’m not looking at this experience from a limited vantage point. And I can honestly say that the openness, generosity, and warm nature of the Myanmar people set them apart in my mind from virtually every place I’ve been privileged to experience. Remember too, this is a country that was occupied at one time by the British and the Japanese among others. And today Myanmar is a country of some eight major national ethnic races.
I can show you photographs of the Myanmar people and you’d get some sense of them. You’ll get an even better sense of the people and culture of Myanmar if I share a few personal stories with you too.
Copyright 2015 Cindy A Stephens
Chauk Htat Gyi
Arriving in Yangon from Bangkok I felt a bit like the imaginary Dorothy when she set foot in Oz – as they say, I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. It can take a while to get one’s bearings in a new country, particularly in one that has been closed to Western tourism for most of its existence and is about to hold its first General Election since 2010. I had a few butterflies as I removed my shoes and socks (a Buddhist custom) to visit the enormous 64 meter-long reclining Buddha image at the Chauk Htat Gyi pagoda.
While I began to look around I caught the eye of a beautiful young girl who was looking my way. She was smiling. I walked toward her general direction. When I got closer she thrust out her hand and in perfect English introduced herself to me with a sweet smile. Her Mum and brother were with her, “picnicking” on a blanket near the Buddha image. She introduced me to her family and we spoke for a few minutes before I said good bye.
Buoyed by this experience I continued along the edge of the reclining Buddha image. On the other side I saw another girl, about 13 years old, also dressed in a beautiful dress – her holiday finest. I motioned with my camera to ask if it was ok to take her photo. Once again, she was with her Mom and was simply enjoying the day together. After taking a few images and chatting I thanked Chou and turned to leave and rejoin the others I was traveling with.
Here's the really amazing part -- a few moments later she came running up to me and handed me an origami flower that she had just made for me!! Imagine that – I took her photograph and ought to be the one to give her thanks. And, she gave me a present. Then, she made another for my friend whom I raced toward to tell her what had just happened.
Chou gave me a present in more ways than one. This encounter occurred on my first day in the country and put me at ease about travel to this very far away place at a time of great change. I immediately felt that this was a special country and one that I would enjoy visiting.
In the next blog post I'll share a story about my visit to a nunnery. Until then, you may also be interested in:
I am a marketing professional and a fine art photographer. With more than 20 years of experience as a marketer and image maker during the digital technology revolution, I now teach creative professionals how to create their artistic presence in the changing art world.
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