Trotting through Yangon, Myanmar

Confession: Hi, I’m The Global Empress and I have a deep  fascination with monks. Come to think of it, I have a fascination for any being who could medidate for longer than seventeen minutes. The other day I decided to download the Oprah and Deepak meditation app, you know, to test my limits. I lasted through the first minute and a half and decided meditating was something I might have to revisit. Let’s put all that on the shelf for another day, shall we? I was thrilled to be in Myanmar and check out the Shwedagon Pagoda.  If you ever find yourself in Myanmar, please visit a temple.

My time in Myanmar was filled with wonder, amazement, sadness, and yes, immeasurable beauty! The well known Shwedagon Pagoda held within it incredibly awe-inspiring erections that were strategically placed throughout the Pagoda. Towering figures of Buddha decorated every inch of the temple. The architecture boasted vibrant shades of white and gold. All guests to the Pagoda, as is the case with many temples, were asked to remove their shoes before entering. As my feet shifted between the wet ground and the uncomfortable green spikey mats, I gave myself permission to ignore my discomfort and focus on what the place meant to thousands of Buddhists in Myanmar.

 

While for tourists the Pagoda might be a place for some of the best photos, it is important to remember it is a place of worship for many. You’d find Monks sitting silently meditating in front of a Buddha statue, women leaving  sacrifices, and children learning the spiritual practices of their parents. Then there was me, happy to be there but not sure how many more pictures I could politely oblige to without getting irritated. I quickly learned that the number, on an empty stomach, is eighteen. I should know- I counted. After the eighteenth ask, I decided a stern ‘no, thank you’ was enough. You can file that under #TravelingWhileBlack #BlackAndAbroad or #YouveNeverSeenABlackPerson. Any of the hashtags would do.

Much of the Myanmar way and lifestyle is warm and inviting, I’d be remiss to overlook the fact that there is a lot of strife in the region.  The people of Myanmar are mostly Buddhist. For such a peace loving religion, you’d find contrary actions when it comes to the way  Rohingya people are treated in the region. This small sect of Muslims who have lived  in Myanmar for ages continue to be slaughtered on an ongoing basis. Many observers have deemed this an act of ethic cleansing, others say it is a genocide taking place right before our eyes. One man I interviewed said, “the Myanmar military is very good at burning houses and shooting the people as they run out” I had to remind myself that this was not a script for a movie. That people, like you and I, continue to live with harsh realities everyday.

*Prayers out to the Rohingya people*

Must Do: Haven’t you been paying any attention? Visit a temple.

Want a tattoo? Have a monk do it. The monks read your aura and self selects a tattoo that goes with your aura. You only pay for the ink and leave a small donation for the monk. And while I don’t know much about the whole aura business or tattoos, I think it might be pretty cool to get tatted up by a monk. Ah, there goes that fascination again…

 

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