Friday, March 22, 2013

Schwedagon Pagoda

The Schwedagon Pagoda is the biggest pagoda in Burma.  It is also the oldest pagoda in the world.  It is estimated to be at least 2600 years old.  As we pulled up to this amazing sight, I was unsure about how I would feel about it.  The park and area around it was huge.  It took up many city blocks and you could see it from miles and miles away.  Once we got near it the landscape changes drastically.  The neighborhood surrounding it had houses bigger than I had seen in some areas of the Quad Cities.  We even passed Aung San Suu Kyi's palace on the way there.  She is the political leader in Burma and the leading face for pro-democracy in Burma.  Her father founded the modern Burmese army, but after he was killed she was put on many house arrests from the Junta Army.  She has done many great things for the Burmese people and has recently been released from her detention.  Driving by her house was how I imagined driving by the White House.
Aung San Suu Kyi's palace ( above)

A mansion less than a mile from the Pagoda ( above)

Once we walked inside to the entrance I did not know what to think.  The floors were made of marble. They had 2 big cases of shelves were you removed your shoes.  Shoes were not allowed inside of the pagoda.  The marble floors felt so good on our feet in the heat of the day.  I have never seen anything like it.  There is nothing here in the US that would even compare to this!  When we walked over a bridge to a very big ravine I already had a weird feeling in the pit of my stomach. I was sure what it was.  I thought that it was the sight of all this gold and riches when we had just left the orphanage where they pray to be able to have enough food to feed everyone.  The area opened up to a huge tree and a Buddha Statue.  Im not sure the significance of the gum tree.  It was at least 2 stories high.  I was in awe of this.  There were many Buddhist monks walking around going about their business.  Some of the local people would look up at our group I'm guessing because of the number of white people.  I was literally speechless.  As we quietly walked around I would occasionally ask Morris and Sonia questions I had about this place.  I was never really interested in Buddhism so I did not know much about it.  All around us were enormous temples with roofs of gold.  From what I gathered there were different stations depending on what day of the week you were born.  Near each station was a cup and and well of water.  People would pour water on the Buddha statue near that station or make a donation of money when they wanted to be blessed or when making a decision about a new house or car. Like I said, I do not know much so this may or may not be accurate! I think the icky feeling in my stomach had to do with seeing all of these people idolize these statues and other things.  It made me think of how as Americans how we do the same thing.  We idolize our cars, houses, jobs and so on.  I walked around praying for each person that I passed or made eye contact with.  This feeling I had was something that is very hard to explain.   I had never been to a temple or gathering place of a religion different than mine before.  I was afraid to speak, walk and take pictures.  Even though it was allowed, it still felt wrong but I knew it was something that I would want to share with everyone at home.

We walked around there praying for at least an hour.  As we went to leave they had a staircase that was so big and each step was full of trinkets, statues, and gifts you could buy. All I could think of was " I would not want one of those in my house!"  It was just very weird, but I'm so glad I was able to experience it!   These pictures are amazing but do not do any justice to the size of this place!

     Entrance into the parking lot

       This is the main temple.  It was so tall I felt dizzy looking at the top!

 Base of the gum tree

 Monk praying

 This beautiful wall was around the base of one of the temples

the bumpy road....

Everyday we took this bumpy road to and from the orphanage.  It was an instant change of scenery from the city to the country!  The first couple days the bumpiness didn't bother me.  In the mornings I would just watch as we passed farmers working in the paddy fields with their families, the water buffalo grazing just feet from the edge of the road, and the motorbikes zooming by! You see, that form of transportation was not aloud in the city.  It was a very cheap way to get around so the people who lived in the country mostly got around that way. One ride cost around a dollar.  The road was 2 lane and VERY narrow.  Almost every night I would fall asleep on the way home. I remember a couple of nights my head actually falling off the edge of my backpack and jolting me awake just like I was in high school study hall all over again.  Towards the end of the trip this road became something I did not look forward to since I was so sick.  However, I did get some okay pictures of the scenery.  This is exactly how I pictured Asia's countryside.  

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Look out for that TREE!!!!!

On the day of my last post, after we served some PB &J's, we decided to get the kids all together and just play! It had been a beautiful day so playing outside in the open air was a wonderful idea.  I also laughed sooo hard this day and it was so much fun! First we did some good old fashioned relay races.  The kids went first which was both hilarious and dangerous! Most of them were falling all over the place and barely missing the huge tree that was in the middle of our two rows.   Some were embarrassed by their new found feeling of dizziness and some embraced it and laughed with the rest of us.  I enjoyed cheering them on and slapping hands with them as they finished.  Then came our turn..... Needless to say, the kids enjoyed this part much more than their turn!

 Notice the big tree people were running into... Im not real sure why we picked this spot ;)

                 Go Sophie! GO!

Then came Cat, Cat, Dog or what you might call Duck, Duck, Goose.  But we played it by saying  Cat, Cat, Dog in Burmese! Which actually made it more fun.  I should really try playing that way here in the US just for some giggles. 

 If you'd like to watch some video of this, you can click on the link to my youtube chanel on the right....

What I especially loved about this game was how cute it was when the older siblings would help out the littler ones.  After spending time with these children, I learned how much they really care for one another.  Even if they are just playing games!  Even though they are just kids they understand the love of Christ and how we all should love each other that way!

We tried to play Red Rover too, but it started to down pour so we decided to head inside and enjoy a hot cup of Java. The Galilee kids went off to do some afternoon chores so I taught Johnathan and John how to play our family game.... spoons!   We did NOT play contact spoons, but they still had fun. ;)
Well... obviously I have not written on here in a LONG time.  When I first came home from my trip, sharing it with you all was a great way to sort through what I had just gone through.  I keep telling myself the reasons why I stopped were.. it was the holidays, I'm too busy, and the silliest one was that I was too sad that I was unable to go on the most recent trip to Burma.  However if I was being really honest with myself I would say that it was pure laziness! 

So, not only am I going to finish sharing this experience with you, I would also like to be able to post about our upcoming trip to Tokyo! Mat and I are leaving on April 2nd on a MUCH NEEDED vacation to visit Bri and Andrew in Japan.  Also, if you are not on Facebook much, this past weekend I attended a christian moms conference called Hearts at Home.  It was so refreshing to be with friends and be around other christian moms who are wanting to learn from other moms how to be more godly wives and mothers.  This was my second year at Hearts at Home and it was just as wonderful and convicting as the first time.  So for the next week or so I am going to be praying about what God wants me to take away from the things I learned and maybe even re-listen to the ones that really convicted me.  Then I would love to share them with you!  The theme for this year was  "No More Perfect Moms" based on a book written by Jill Savage who started Hearts at Home twenty something years ago.  So, as I learn what it means to replace being a "perfect mom" with being a "perfected mom through Jesus Christ, "  I hope that you all will continue reading this blog!

Oh... one more thing.  I am also in the process of starting a jewelry store on Etsy.  I have been working on making jewelry for the past 5 months or so and I would love to get to a point where I can give back someday to the ministries I love like UBS and Galilee.  It still is a working progress and Andrew graciously offered to help me while we are vacation to get this started.  So, I will also keep you posted on that!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

PB & J's

 When we first arrived, we headed to a store in the city to help Morris and Sonia with some needs around the orphanage and seminary.  I was surprised it was like a Walmart, Hyvee, and Office Max combined!  We wanted to do something fun for everyone so we decided to share with them an American treat!  We bought several loafs of bread and tons of peanut butter and jelly.  It was so much fun passing them out and being able to watch them enjoy this yummy treat! As a mom, I often get sick of this concoction at home and so do my kids.  It was fun to try in different flavors and share it with kids that have NEVER heard of it.  Even all the adults loved it. We had so much Jelly and peanut butter left over we ended up making it again before we left. 

Monday, September 24, 2012


Who knew that our team had an initiation ritual! NOT ME!  In past years the Heritage team had each eaten at least one pepper that was used in traditional meals in Burma.  These peppers were either red or green and smaller than a MIKE N IKE!  Neither one was hotter than the other and it just depended on luck whether you got one that was pretty spicy or FIRE hot!

If you do not know me very well, I am a person who does NOT like spicy food.  Mild salsa is spicy for me, so this was difficult.  I survived.... but my chest was on fire for the rest of the day and I would have given just about anything for just one glass of milk....

Lending a helping hand....

One day after lunch we were able to visit a nearby Buddhist village.  This tiny village was about a mile or less from UBS.  We planned to go there because a family member of Pastor Morris had planted a christian church there inside the village.  As we walked across the paved main road, I was very curious to see how the people there would react to us.  It was not the first time a Heritage team had been there, but it was a first for me.  We walked into a fenced in community on a dirt road and began to see people poking there heads out of their homes, which were raised wooden huts.  Some were nicer than other but most of them smaller than my bedroom.  I walked quietly just watching and smiling as we passed by these polite people.  Once we had entered the village the word must have gotten out that white people were there because families began to stand outside to wave at us as we passed by.  They were just as curious about me as I was of them. 

This church was brought here to pour love and support to these Buddhist families.  They installed a well system so they could have clean water and also provided food and clothing to some that could not afford it.  They used this outreach to teach them about our living God who loves them very much.  They do this and soooo much more for these people, and I felt very fortunate to be able to be a part of that, even if all I did was hand out candy to children and plant some lettuce!

 This was a structure on the side of the church that they used to plant crops and raise animals for food.  We helped them move some of these crops so they could plant new ones.

:) My mom was amazed at this.  I actually like gardening and getting dirty sometimes, however worms usually scare me but on this day I didn't see any.  I actually think my mind was focused on what I was doing for this community instead of what was actually in front of me....

  A few of us helped with the planting alongside some of the older boys from Galilee, while the others played with the young children in the village.  Once we started handing out candy, more and more would come.  They could not understand us at all, but they didn't mind listening to us talk and eating yummy candy!


These girls were sooo cute! There were doing all kinds of dances for us so they could get more candy!

After we had been there a little while, some of the mothers started bringing their babies too! It seemed like they wanted these little ones to be able to meet us and hear us talk.  It blew my mind that no babies had diapers on and some were not even covered up from the waist down! Morris's daughter told me that only old people wore diapers in Burma.  I simply could not wrap my head around this... Our babies are so layered with clothes and wear super absorbent diapers ALL the time! Being a mother of a soon to be 3 year old still in diapers, I had MANY questions about this topic!

On our way back we got to ride motorcycles back to the seminary! The ride cost about 20 cents for 2 people and it was a VERY bumpy road.  Not to mention the stranger in front of me that I had to hold on to or I would fall off.   I seriously prayed the whole way back...