Wednesday, September 5, 2007

"The Comfort Room"

Today, Helen and I walked to the market – today (Wednesday) is the day when many villagers come in from the village to sell their things in the town. And it is a day when there are more women shopkeepers than men, so it’s nice to shop on this day. We passed fish sellers, crab sellers, as well as so many different kinds of green plant sellers (for eating). I took a few pictures – but wish I had taken more. I bought a skirt – Helen will stitch it for me. I hope to wear it when we go to Kha town maybe. My Indian suits are alright, but hotter than their typical dress- and so far, I’ve only seen maybe 3 girls wearing suits like mine. The rest are wearing ths long skit with a t-shirt. And, my Indian suits are long sleeve, which is dreadfully hot – I thought since I was coming to a Muslim country, I should dress more Muslim. But that is not the case…short sleeve shirts are perfectly fine here. Tomorrow, I hope to wear a purple short sleeve shirt with a red printed skirt I got. I should fit right in!

The other day I gave KL and ZL some bracelet and earring sets that Chrisalyn made. Today, I gave Helen some soap, some lotion and bracelets and pins for all the girls in their house- I think there are 6 right now (3 sisters, 2 neices, and 1 cousin).

I’m still feeling fine physically. My head doesn’t hurt as much, and my stomach is fine. I’m still really tired- and I’m sleeping almost 9-10 hours each night – but otherwise, feel fine. Even the heat doesn’t seem as intense as it was when I first got here- perhaps I’m getting used to it. The yellow striped spider outside the bathroom, and the pigs outside the bathroom are still things I’d prefer not to have to interact with every time I use the CR (comfort room), but all well.

Yeah, have you ever heard of that, “the Comfort Room” – ZL asked me the other day, ‘do you need the CR?” I was like, “What?” He then said Comfort Room. I was still like, “What?” He finally said, ‘well, what do you call it, the bathroom?’ – but the bathroom is for taking bath and shower… Anyway, I’m not sure how a cement area that stinks usually and has spiders and frogs (yeah, there are two in the one here) can be called a comfort room. But it is. Funny.

Today, we went to visit to 'Mar' Village- completely Buddhist group. ZL actually hadn’t been to this village before – he has a few classmates (From 4-5 years ago?) that he knows. He was hoping they will welcome us. And sure enough, they did. It was great because he was able to kind of ‘use’ me to get into the village. He said, "I have this foreigner who wants to see the village…" and they were happy to welcome me, and then happy to see their old classmate as well.

We went to the home of one of the classmates. We stood outside, while he told about 25 kids to leave. We walked in and realized that they had been watching tv. Probably the only tv in the village. They don’t have chairs, table or any kind of furniture- but they have a tv. You can see they have their priorities in order! :) We had coke and biscuits. Then we walked around the village. It was a bit different from the other villages. There were pigs, chickens, people – all living together. They have little gates outside their homes to keep the pigs out- I think it works most of the time. But still, from the other villages there were definitely more animals roaming around – and their droppings. But the people smiled a little more here. It also just seemed like a more ‘fun/exciting’ place. The trees covered the village, and gave a good amount of shade (even though it was still raining a bit, there was no sun at all). I felt like it would be so enjoyable to live in this village – I didn’t exactly feel that way in the other villages…

I asked about clean water. They said they have a ‘deep well’ – which is where they get their water.

They invited us to see their temple (Buddhist worship place – I’m not sure the correct term – pagoda?). We went in – it was similar to Hindu temple in that there were lights on around Bhudha’s head, and there were statues of bhudha in a class cage. There was a monk in a red robe sitting to the right, on a mat. ZL's two friends knelt down and worshipped in front of the budha, and then did the same in front of the monk. Then they invited us to come and sit with the monk. We accepted. There were a few other people in the temple – some were sleeping.

We had a good discussion with the monk. I took the opportunity to learn some stuff about Budhism. I tried to demonstrate to ZL how to ask cultural questions without being confrontational. I think he was impressed with how direct I could ask questions, but still just asking out of curiosity – not confronting them in any way. The monk actually would answer in Mar language, then ZL's friend would translate into the national language, then ZL would translate into English. I so wished I could just speak the language. We could have covered so much more in that time if we didn’t have to go through two translations!!!

I asked the monk if he could tell us a story – something from Budhism, or their culture. He and ZL's friend talked for a few minutes about what to say/tell. Then he started telling a story about a 16 year old boy. One day, he was in forest, he saw a dead man and started wondering about death. He wondered how he can escape death. He realized that he needs to sacrifice all things. It is not about gaining something or earning something, but only through sacrificing everything that you can escape death (I’m not totally positive on that, may need to clarify with ZL again). [Of course, sacrificing is still ‘doing’ something on our part, and thus still earning/achieving something- right?]. The boy fasted for a long time (5 years?), and then was never seen again. (Also not sure if this is correct ending of the story…).

Apparently, he is remembered or worshipped even today. I’m not sure if that was the start of budhism, or just one of the budhas along the way. I tried to ask, but didn’t get a clear answer – I wonder if there is one.

I then asked about some of the things in the temple area.
- What is that white circular flag? - It is used as a symbol of shade. Since shade is a good thing, we want to show that we are giving Budha shade.
- Are the statues inside the glass cage all the same? – Yes, they are all budha.
- Why do you have so many? Do they represent the same thing, or different gods/budhas? – No, they represent one budha. They were given by different people who have visited the temple.
- Does the budha represent god or a person? – I actually didn’t get a clear answer on this either…but they said, “budha/god is alive, but he cannot talk. There is a story about one who was told that this budha would come but would not talk. He would be alive, but would not talk. If he was able to talk, then he would get a lot of requests for wisdom and other things – so he doesn’t talk. He predicts things.
- If he doesn’t talk, how does he predict things? - Good question – Well, it’s really just a guess, not an exact prediction. For example, if there are ashes near the statue, then that may mean someone’s house will burn down. If there is water near the statue it could mean there will be a flood.
- How do the ashes and water get near the statue – what statue do they come near – this statue in the glass cage? - No, there is one important statue somewhere in Burma – it happens there.
- Then someone tells someone else, who tells someone else, then finally you find out about it? - Yes.
- Please don’t mind my questions, I have lived in India, and have learned things about Hindus, but I don’t know anything about Budhism. It is very interesting – I appreciate you sharing all of this with me. – You should go to our bigger temple, there is someone who has more wisdom there and he can help you.

I think there were a few more questions asked and answered, but I can’t remember them all now. Anyway, I could have stayed for 2 more hours and continued to question. I told ZL later that I was honestly curious about what they believe. He said, “yeah, that was a good question – if Budha can’t speak, how does he predict things…”

I said- most religions, or at least my experience with Hinduism has been that for most things, they have some answer – and many times, it might even make some sense. They are smart people and do things and believe things for a reason or based on things they really feel are true. We have to find out what those things are first before we can counter it at all. I don’t think he realized 1) how important it is to find out their beliefs, or 2) how easy it can be to find out. I told him about how after finding out more about them, then you can choose stories to match things in their culture or help them realize what is true.

We then went to his home. I met his wife, daughter and son. I checked email, and then we all went out to dinner. We had meat again. Oh yeah, I’ve had more meat in this week than I’ve had in the past two years…I don’t think I even ate this much meat in America! Phew!

Anyway, it was an enjoyable evening – though I felt bad I couldn’t really communicate with his wife. I tried to learn a bit of their language, but didn’t get very far since she would just call her husband to come translate. All well. She gave me a handmade bag from her village – Bam tribe.

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