By Camille Bru - GV leader Myanmar
The last two weeks of February have been intense with the Welcome Weeks in Raipur, new encounters, new experiences, many ideas exchanged, a lot of fun, spicy food and great memories. I am now ready for my mission in Myanmar, the smile on my face is broad! It’s Sunday, midnight, I’m ready to leave India.
Monday is a day off in the LPC, my new housemates Chloé, Bérénice, Claire, Pol, Lilas and I head to the centre of Yangon for a first taste of the local atmosphere. Shwedagon Pagoda is the most famous landmark of Myanmar, the largest Pagoda of the country (and maybe of the World, who knows!). We spot it from far, and as we walk closer, it captures our attention. To reach the platform where it stands, tall and proud, one needs to climb some pretty impressive stairs. Take your shoes off and the journey begins. As you reach the top, you can finally grasp the magic of the place. The sun reflecting on the golden bell shaped Pagoda, the many temples surrounding it, all the Buddhas watching you, the details in the architecture, the colors from the traditional Longhi… what a mesmerizing sight. People follow unique and mysterious rituals! They bathe Buddha statues, light candles, leave flowers, pray in front of a tree, take selfies, all in a peaceful and quiet atmosphere. We hear a guide say: “The sunset just gives a holy feel to the temple, you should wait if you have time!”. We took the time and were not disappointed!
Our weeks are busy and exciting, learning about the Youths, the local culture, meeting partners and NGOs. They just go in a blink! But as we still need to feed ourselves, I started developing a passion for markets… It’s not new, but it’s getting worse! I can’t get enough of the colors, the smells, the smiles, the tastes… We go at least twice a week to our neighborhood market and we’re already friends with the ladies that sell us the fruits and vegetables. After each Burmese lesson, I try to practice with them or any kid on the street! They laugh at my terrible accent, but they love it!! Because even though we don’t understand each other, we all smile in the same language!! They enjoy correcting me and trying to understand my funny words! It’s such a special and powerful moment for me, it warms my heart! I love seeing their stalls, so vibrant and multicolored, full of unknown varieties of fruits and vegetables (the seed lover in me is starting a new collection!). Some vendors sit directly on the ground, others have more elaborate stalls, they all chit-chat and laugh, the Thanaka on their faces gives them a sweet, almost childish look. As you walk through the market, you’ll meet the butchers, and fishmongers next to the florists, in the middle of the fruits and veggies, among which some fabric, clothes or underwear stalls… a happy art piece made of light, textures and fragrances!
During the last weeks, Covid-19 has begun to change the outlines of our missions and it has also changed our interactions with people. We practice social distancing as much as possible (especially difficult when going to the market!), and stay in the centre most of the time. I’m glad I got to enjoy a glimpse of this exquisite country and fascinating people. I will be looking forward to being released and to discover more!