trip of 6th July


K ~ July is the month of the birthdays of my younger son and my two grandchildren, so I have been rather busy.  In the entire year, this month is the only month with birthdays that I bother with;  the other days in the year that are observed are deathdays!  You know the ones I love at this stage in my life are these three.

My young son's birthday is 8th July.  Though he is not nearby, I do all I can for his well-being and 'kutho' (augment his store of merit). So, we arranged at our home the chanting of prayers for ten hours on the 8th.

At 6am five monks were brought to the house, and offered the early morning refreshments (the monks' last meal would have been at 12 noon the previous day). Then they began the 'pa-htan' chanting. Pa-htan means non-stop chanting, you know.

The abbot was taken back to the monastery, and the remaining four monks continued, taking turns.  

At 10am MaungMaung went to fetch the abbot for the offering of the daily meal.  The four monks ate earlier, each one taking turns so as not to interrupt the chanting.

About 12 noon, MaungMaung took the Sayadaw (abbot, great teacher) back.  He is over 80 years old and needs to rest.

At 5pm, MaungMaung again fetched him.  

MaungMaung all day was either fetching the Sayadaw or taking him back! and I was busy offering early morning alms, the noon-day offering of food (the one meal), and in the afternoon, a cooling drink.  About 6pm, all the monks were taken back to their monastery.  So that was 8th July!

And then on the 13th, my younger grandchild turned three.  On the 11th, I bought all the necessary supplies. As soon as I was up on the 12th, I went to the market, returned and began cooking.  On the 13th, from 8am to 12 noon, relatives, friends of MaH (mother of birthday girl), my friends, all came over, about 100 people.

I had prepared 'ohn-no-khauk-swe' (you have to taste it! in Burma! utterly delicious Burmese feast noodles).  For those who don't dare eat coconut milk (rich), I cooked another version, also the agar-agar jelly sweet without coconut milk, and also chocolate jelly (there are more sweets mentioned). All this plus the preparation of special refreshing drinks ~ it was all of course my handiwork, K!  When it's pineapple season, I put that in as well.

The guests departed around 2.30pm.  Then we had a wedding celebration to attend, of MaungMaung's relatives.  So that was the 13th!

So do forgive me for not writing until now.

The two previous years, for the July birthdays,  MaungMaung's elder sister from Taunggyi (Shan States) has come and prepared Shan food.  Everyone likes my cooking, so this year I offered my noodles in return.

Now I will tell you about the trip on 6th July.  It isn't that long ago, is it?  Only about 10 days.  That week, my friend Rita said she would offer clothes and food.  MaH's friend also had brought over a lot of clothes to donate.  They could not go themselves, so they wanted to send with MaH.  Another friend bought a lot of potatoes and onions.  I spent the rest of the money on frying pans, 150 of them.  Rice is produced in Kyauk-tan, so we decided to buy it there.  MaH and friends thought that they would stop on the way back, and offer medical attention at Ta-nyin Pha-auk.

One of her friends had a village in mind around Kyauk-tan.

As usual, we set out from home at 7am, and with all the picking up of people, we got out of Yangon only around 8am.  You know Kyauk-tan is not that far, you probably know the pagoda in the middle of the water there.

When we arrived, we went to buy rice at the market.  The shopkeeper told us that the village we were heading for had been visited by a famous Sayadaw (an abbot from Lower Burma) the day before, the village had been given a lot of donations.  So we asked for a suggestion of a poor village we could visit.  We were given directions, and headed out of the market and to a bridge where the car could be left; we had to continue by way of a big bamboo bridge.

Were they poor, K!  I have sent you photos, and will send more.  The cyclone had taken everything away.  And the place is in any case surrounded by water.  I imagine the houses they had built were about to fall down anyway, before the winds came.  And what they have tried to rebuild, it only needs a Nargis offspring to bring it all down again.  

There are 205 households in the village. There must be over a thousand inhabitants.  And lots of children.  That day we had only 150 pans, we were missing 50+.  Rice we could offer to each household, 9 sacks we had brought along.  Clothes we could offer to everyone.  The ones who didn't get cooking pans really wanted them, so I said I would come back with more frying pans.  I thought I could make a trip just for the pans!  But now that you have sent more money, I can return to give fully and generously to this village.

When you come, I can take you there.  I have heard that foreigners are not allowed to visit those places destroyed by the cyclone, but this place is near and I think you can all come.

There are over 90 children of school age.  MaH distributed books and pencils to the children.

I had thought of going this Sunday, but your little aunt's relative has a monks' do, so we have decided to go all together on the 27th.  I'd like them to come along.

Most people have gone out further from Yangon, and little places like this village have been passed over; there are lots of places to give to.  

The money you have just sent, I will use it all for the next trip. Rice, lentils.  And mosquito-nets, I will go and ask the cost.  I think they need just about everything.  We took names of the people who didn't get pans last week, I will buy more.  If I went along with Sitagu Sayadaw to give donations, I would have to buy 1000 of each article!  Aren't there a lot of people in distress?  Whatever else, if we are able to give to 200, enough to make them happy, one village will be happy.

Today, MaungMaung's neice came over, and we heard of a place, about 7 hours by boat from MawGyun, where all the nutrients from the soil were taken away by the cyclone, and they are unable to plant anything.  Her friends, with the help of friends from abroad, are sending rice to the village.  Think of this!  One week's supply of rice, two weeks', I was calculating ... how long can the donations last?  All the houses were on the shore, and now they are afraid and have moved inland, which means everything has to be built anew.  More donors needed!

I will write again after the 27th trip.