A Funeral, A Wedding Party & A Communal Bath

January 23, 2014

I’ve been to a funeral, a wedding party and bathed with 30 Burmese at once in the past three days and tomorrow I am getting picked up and heading a couple hours into the mountains to live with a tribe to teach English for a week or so. Needless to say these past three days have been a journey. I got off the bus and walked to find food and within a block in this tiny town of Hsipaw I was called from the street to have tea with two locals. It turned into one of them owning a gold shop and him inviting me to his shop the next. The next day I went to the shop, handled too much gold to know what to do with, handled HeADy CRysTalZ and saw a different side of Myanmar. The man, who goes by Mr. Gold, said a friend passed away and invited me to the funeral.. So I went. It was an interesting procession. We all showed up, gathered in a long line of cars and drove to the cemetery. At the cemetery they welcome you with a bag as a thank you for coming.. Inside the bag was a fruit juice packet and laundry detergent. (No joke). We drove up to the family, spoke to them through the window, and then drove off. That was the entire process. Later that night I met back up with a different group and we watched a movie in English. This is how they practice and learn. Then today, Mr. Gold took me to a Chinese wedding party where we all had a feast. I ate so many different parts of a pig I didn’t know what was what.. I do know one dish was made of purely pig nerves.. It didn’t taste too bad but the texture was a tad bit unsettling. The wedding party was fun and we stayed for an hour or so and then I got dropped off at my hostel. I switched hostels today bc the first one was charging $15 which is robbery and found one which is $7 which is way more like it. Still expensive, but accommodation in Myanmar is a little more expensive than other places. I met back up with the other group and one of them asked if I wanted to go to the hot springs. I obliged as it’s freeeeeezing up here. This morning I could see my breathe and there isn’t much instillation where I stay. And of course I have one long sleeved shirt that’s been getting use for the first time since Mt. Bromo, Indonesia. Glad I didn’t toss it. So my friend drove me fourth five minutes to this tiny, tiny village outside Hsipaw. We then arrived to this hot spring area about the size of a swimming pool. There a lot of people all taking a communal bath in the springs. So into my underwear I went, of course everyone stared and laughed, and into the soapy water I submerged. My friend advised me to enter on one side in particular stating that one had cleaner water than the other. (Remember this is all one body of water the size of a swimming pool). Anyways, I agreed and entered on the side he suggested. We bathed, oh yes with soap, shampoo and all, and then got out. I borrowed a towel to use to wrap around myself as I took off my boxers to put on my dry shorts and then guess what happened… Oh yes, the towel slipped off and I showed the entire community my white, pale ass. Ahhhh so embarrassing but only a handful saw. Hah! He then drove me back after refusing payment for the tea, gas and entry fee for the journey. These people are so hospitable. I just love it here. They are all just so happy you are here and especially since the borders just recently opened they are excited to see people finally allowed inside. (There are still a lot of parts of the country where we aren’t allowed to go and are blocked off to foreigners by the government. These areas still have forced labor and other oppressive tactics, including rape, handled by the government. It’s beyond horrible. But that’s for another post.)

Sooo did I find Mr. Books? Yes! I did. I found him today. I heard he was sick but went seeking him anyways. Upon arrival I asked if he was Mr. Books, he nodded, I introduced myself and asked if I could speak with him… Then he shook his head and waved me away and turned around. Not the warm welcome I was expecting. So I walked into the street and had a moment of.. I dunno.. Defeat? It sucked, I came all the way here to see him to find a school to volunteer at and this is how he “greeted” me. So I took a moment and said in my head, “OK, Universe.. I need a clue here.. Gimme a sign.. What the hell do I do now?” So I came to my hostel, which was just a block away, and upon entry I asked the trekking guide in the lobby if he knew of any schools. Then BOOM, my questions were answered. He told me of a village a few hours in the mountains, there are no busses that go there, no taxis can get there, only a motorbike can make it to this village. There, they could use help as they have one or two teachers and often have to cancel school all together because for whatever reason the teachers have to do other things than teach. He said that they have been looking for someone, anyone to come stay with them and help teach and organize their English “department”. He said they should be glad to have me and he made a phone call and then just like that, he said someone would be here sometime tomorrow to pick me up. I am going to Htan Sant Village, north of Myanmar, high up in the mountains. I will be there for a week or more seeing what I can do. If I like it I may go back to Thailand and renew my visa and come back, but that’s getting ahead of myself. All I know is tomorrow I need to buy a jacket and toilet paper, bc I ain’t left handin’ it. . I am really excited and a little nervous bc I have no clue what to expect. No idea what I’ll eat. No idea where I’ll sleep. I have faith the villagers will take good care of me and make sure I am warm and fed. This is gonna be epic. So bedtime for me and tomorrow I’ll get picked up sometime and head into the mountains! Definitely no wifi or anything there besides some huts so everyone take care and I’ll see ya when I see ya! Teacher Justin, round two!

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