We have spent the last 2 weeks in a whirlwind of activities at a Buddhist Monastery and school, Htet Eain Gu, which is why our posts have not been as regular. Our days are filled from the moment we get up at 7AM to the time we go to bed. Our naive thoughts that maybe we’d have some time to relax here couldn’t have been more wrong. Although some of that is from our own doing.
Alayna started teaching Grade 2 and 3 English this week. It’s challenging coming up with a lesson plan, and usually nothing goes as planned. It requires a lot of improvisation, as you never know if they will have their books, pencils, or if you’ll be able to use the classroom. Alayna’s favourite class involved teaching articles of clothing. She put together a bag of some of our older clothing and went to the playground. They did a scavenger hunt for various clothing items and then made two young monks dress in Mark’s shorts and shirt. They thought it was the most hilarious thing and laughed for close to five minutes straight. Even the local teacher was laughing.
In the afternoons Alayna works in the clinic. She started an anti-fungal shampoo regime to help combat some of the scalp fungus. She has taught the local clinic helper about the different types of fungus and created education and reference materials for future volunteers. A few of the worst cases (she drained about 20 abscesses from a young girl’s legs) she took with the local helper to the hospital to get oral medication for treatment. From this exchange a local doctor has volunteered to come to the monastery in a few weeks to see all of the children. Success!
Alayna has also done presentations to the older children and some of the monks and teachers about infection prevention and control (how and when to wash hands, laundry, and how germs spread etc.). As part of the donations we are improving this by building new buildings for the garbage, to house dishes and a laundry washing station.
Mark has been working hard to better the infrastructure and working conditions at the monastery. A large portion of his time has been put into figuring out how to use the donation money effectively. After this was taken care of, he worked on improving their water management and pumping stations. No small feat, as a small task can turn into a major one with hidden problems along the way. He managed to fully automate three water tanks, repair all the water lines, clean out the pumps and tanks, and educate the local caretaker (a VERY tough lady named Nana) on how to properly upkeep them. He’s also crafted many handmade solutions to simple problems here. A shower our of old bottles, bamboo railings up a steep path, and bamboo shelving units.
Last weekend we decided to take a break from our accommodations and rented a hotel in town. A hot shower has never felt so good. We did a day boat trip to Inle Lake to see the stilt villages, and some of the local handicrafts like creating fabric from lily pad stalks, cigarette making, and silversmiths. It was a very touristy experience and we were ready to head back to our Kuti (house) to be back with the locals.
That was until we came back to a poisonous scorpion in the bathroom and the biggest spider our Australian roomate had ever seen living under our toilet. Eventually the scorpion left the washroom; it’s still unknown if he exited a window or chose more permanent accommodation inside our Kuti. We named the spider Carl and he continues to live there, but at least he keeps the number of bugs down.
We were very lucky that we had an amazing group of other volunteers from around the world (Germany, France, Italy, Peru, Netherlands,Croatia, Australia, Czech Republic, etc.) who made the experience fun even in some of its most challenging moments. The experience was almost like camp, with fast friends forming due to circumstance. We even sang campfire songs. We are hopeful we can stay in touch with them in the future as we all travel around the world.
Now, we leave and continue on to our next adventure. It is sometimes difficult to see the impact you have made, especially in such a short time. Our goal was to give them the tools to improve their surroundings and through education and supplies, we believe we did that. It’s up to them to take what we have given and run with it. It was also a huge learning experience for us, and an amazing one. We’re sad to leave but we will continue to be in touch with the “Mudita Family” to view their progress.
ကျေးဇူးတင်ပါတယ် (thank you!)