Dear friends,

Yesterday we started out at 6.30am and went to Twante and two other villages, returning back to Yangon around 7.30pm.  You know how much the Burmese like to make offerings and donations, how strong the volition is for doing this.  In all our hearts, we are thinking how we can help those who were struck by the cyclone.  We are doing what we can.

Yesterday being Sunday, people had the day off, and many many went to give help.  People set out from Yangon around 4am, group by group.

When we reached PanHlaing Bridge, car registration numbers were being collected, there was a huge jam of 200 cars or so, all filled with donations.  We were stuck for a long time.  Only after our car number was recorded could we continue onwards.  After this bridge, people took separate ways to towns and villages of our choice.

Until recently, these places could only be reached from Yangon along the waterways.  I had never been to these places.  The bridges were built not long ago, and only now these places can be reached by road.

When we reached KunChan Hill, we found a KyetCheNi boy (the Burmese term is red chicken/cock's foot, it being cross-like;  this is not the International Red Cross! it's a local para-medical outfit), and asked him if he could take us to villages where help had not reached.

From the car road, there are only dirt tracks to the villages.  Along this stretch, in a little stream, two corpses had surfaced.  I went down to see.  The track ended and we continued by tractor, our car would have sunk into the mud!  Even this tractor gets stuck and everyone has to push it out.

This village had not many killed or lost in the cyclone.  Their livelihood is from growing Kun (the betel nut plant, whose nuts and leaves are chewed, like a kind of tobacco).  They cut wood and sell firewood too.  As the local roads are not good, there is no one coming to buy the firewood.  The Kun fields are few and in poor condition.  Since the cyclone, there has not been a penny coming in.  They can only wait for help such as we had brought.

We went in a little truck from Yangon.  A friend and I sat up in the front.  In the back sat a group of five doctors, all friends, plus another friend.  All kinds of stuff bought with your donation were with us.  The six in the back, and all the stuff piled up!

In our car were one thousand articles of clothing, half for adults, half for children.  Lots of small foodstuffs.  Then slippers, PaSoe and LonGyi (men's and women's lower garments/sarongs), blankets.  We gave to the children clothes and edibles.

Accompanying us were my niece and her husband's family; they were in 3 cars, two for transporting the rice and other donations, and one transporting the people.

We also took bottles of clean water.  There are a lot of people donating rice, and we heard from others who have gone to give help that they were being asked for slippers (everyone's footwear; everything got carried away by the wind and water).  So that's why I had bought a lot of slippers!

Being able to give, gives PiTi (sympathetic joy).  Please tell your friends, please thank all who have given.  I entrusted to the little doctors half of your donation, for her and her doctor friends to buy whatever medical stuff they wished.

When we reached the monastery (in KunChan Hill, the village of Betel Gardens Hill), the news was spread that doctors had arrived, and whoever needed attention could come.  I will send photos of this.

The doctors had taken kits for the pregnant women, I heard them advising that these packets were not for opening, until the time of birth when they should hand it over to the midwife.  That these articles were sterilised, and if the packets were opened now, they would be useless when they were needed.  I'll tell you later what were in these kits.

The doctors also gave stuff out for women who have recently given birth;  here too I forgot to ask what this was.

The money you sent has all been spent, but there are still medicines left.  In the coming days, the little group of doctors are planning to go to the Dagon area, where we hear help is needed.

Some notes from Kinthissa : the phones are starting to work, I have just got through to Yangon.

Electricity is back, so is water.  The kits handed out to the pregnant women contained sterilised materials needed at birth, scissors for cutting the umbilical cord, sterilised pads, etc.  Now I've forgotten what she told me about the parcels given to the women who had recently had babies!  It was stuff that the young women doctors had decided would be useful to give, they had bought the various things and packed them.

Today she had been watching the soldiers who had been sent to cut up the giant tree that had fallen in front of their house.  There were 30 soldiers, with 2-3 small machetes.  One of them looked up and saw her upstairs.  He asked for water.  She sent down a big bottle.  They asked for more, she sent down more.  Finding a packet of tamarind sweets in the kitchen, she threw it down as a present.  One soldier picked it up, removed his cap, and replaced the cap on his head, hiding the packet of sweets.  She thought to herself, ah, he's saving it for his children.  She called down,"That's for sharing with everyone!  I'll send more, if it's not enough."

Her nephew who runs a teashop came by, and she asked him to get tea for all the soldiers.  "Tea for all of them costs 9000 Kyats", she said.  She was musing over things with me, saying how poor the soldiers are too. A captain came by, and thanking her told the soldiers to move on to the next tree.  There are an awful lot of them down.  She says there is one positive thing about this ~ the view from her upstairs to the Shwedagon, the golden stupa, is now unobstructed.  She can take her refuges each night, in direct view of the great shrine.

A relative of hers is gathering funds for buying propagation seeds, to begin a little the replacement of the trees and other plants that were destroyed in the Delta.  They have also ordered from a factory a huge lot of pots and pans, that's the cheapest way to obtain them.  And LonGyi/PaSoe as well, from the weavers.

P.S. the area around Twante, where they went yesterday, is famous for its craft, the enormous earthenware jars that are still used all over the country, to store water, rice, fermented fish, etc.  They are wonderful, these jars, I used to dream of hiding in them!