Kachin Brothers and Sisters

The Kachin

image

The Jingpo people or Kachin are an ethnic affinity of several tribal groups, known for their fierce independence, disciplined fighting skills, complex clan inter-relations, embrace craftsmanship, herbal healing, and jungle survival skills. They live in the far northern reaches of Myanmar on high rain forest mountains where average yearly rainfall is a whopping 156″ a year! August average temperatures are in the mid 80’s and lows in January are in the mid 40’s in their homeland. Cooler than lower elevation of Yangon!

image

Let me tell you a bit about this outfit. The top is made of heavy black velvet with much hand designed silver sewn onto the top. And when they walk the silver makes a pleasant jingling sound. The older you are the more silver you have on your top. The skirt is hand knitted wool and on colder days they wear matching leggings under the skirt. All hand knitted wool!

These outfits I suspect keep them warm in their high mountainous homeland but must have been very hot to wear in mid 90 degree heat in Yangon! But they all looked cool as cucumbers while I looked flushed, hot and heat exhausted!

They traveled awfully far to come to the convention and they arrived early so they could spend time with us on the tours as well as entertain us with cultural dances and singing. I cannot guess what sacrifices these monetarily poor friends made to reach the Assembly! They had traveled weeks to get to Yangon and through areas that are very dangerous!

What a blessing to meet these beautiful servants of Jehovah and to see their complete reliance on Jehovah to get them to Yangon and then the long trip home!

image

This picture was taken on the boat that took us down the Twante. They sang and danced for us on the trip home and then later met us again for family gathering night. What fun to be with these brothers and sisters!

image

We both got our cheeks painted with

image

Thanaka. Thanaka is a beauty product very common in Myanmar. It is a paste made by grinding a Thanaka branch on a stone with a little water. It is considered beautiful, cooling and makes a good sun screen. It is very pretty on the brown skin of the Burmans but tends to look sickly green on us white skinned peoples! Ha!

Advertisements

Kingdom Halls in Myanmar

image

This was on a wall at Yangon Bethel. It represents the States in Myanmar in the center. And on both sides are pictures of the Kingdom Halls. Some are before and after remodel pictures.  In a country where many buildings and houses are made of Bamboo, you can understand why our brothers and sisters in Myanmar are so proud of their Kingdom Halls!

image

If you can enlarge this picture you will see some before and after remodel pictures.

I received many book markers from the friends as gifts. Most were pictures of their Kingdom Hall and congregation standing in front posing with grand smiles! They were very nice laminated book markers! I think Bethel helped them make these gifts for us!

So nice to look at and remember!

Can You Row Standing Up?

image

image

Can you row a boat standing up? These pictures I took on the Twante Canal, which is roiling, swift and muddy! This style of rowing is commonly seen in Myanmar. I would think it would be a  terribly unstable way to row, but as you can see these men aren’t having any trouble on the swift Twante!

The Burmese fisherman are often depicted standing in their fishing boats, steering or managing their poles with one foot while throwing out their fishing nets or cone shaped fishing basket. Much fishing is done in shallow lakes and rivers so they pole their boats around not unlike the Gondola in Venice.

image

Trishaw anyone?

A trishaw is a very common and cheap form of transportation in the cities of Myanmar. 50 cents to $1.00.

image

I must admit I wasn’t brave enough to try it in Yangon because the traffic in the streets are only for the brave of heart! What would be a two lane road with a center turn lane in the US is two lanes both directions, a middle lane that is up for grabs and no rules of the road that seems logical! Bicycles, motor bikes, vehicles of odd ages of yore, Trishaws, pedestrians, Lorries and busses. All tooting, honking, beeping, and dingalinging! A noisy affair!

image

This is transportation my speed! Of course this is found only in less busy roads! Ahh..

image

This is truck/Lorrie transport we saw everywhere! This is a truck with rails that go over the top of the cab and bed. You pile in a bit like, “how many people can you stuff in a phone booth?” then you climb on top and hang off the bumper in the back! I saw these human beehives come to a stop and all the guys hanging on the back would fall off! They were hanging on three deep!

Squat toilets

image

I know, I know! Bathrooms are not usually the normal conversation….

Some cultures use this bathroom system, but us spoiled people may find this system of daily bathroom time daunting! First of all… Where is the TOILET PAPER! There is none!

How do you use it? The more curious want to know?

You see where there is tread on the fixture? You put your feet there and .. you.. squat. This isn’t actually the difficult part. The difficulty arises when you discover there is no toilet paper! We were actually warned we might want to bring toilet paper with us, which most of us did. But the dilemma still exist.. What next?

The procedure is as follows; You see the bucket and faucet? You put water in the bucket, then you use the water to do your duty, drip dry then stand up. Then you use the water to wash down the squat toilet. This part it’s the messy part because etiquette dictates you leave the toilet clean, even the treads. So water goes all over the floor! No problem! There are drains in the floors of every bathroom. And if you have an up-scale bathroom it will have a spray nozzle that can be used instead of the bucket and cup routine!

A Day On The Twante Canal

Today was our tour down the Twante Canal and visit the little village of Twante.

The Twante, a heavily silted, and roiling canal was built in 1883 to join Yangon to the Irrawaddy Delta and through to the ocean. It is deep enough for large steamers.

Our group was to share a three decker steamer with our brothers and sisters on  3 hour trip to Twante and then return. So early in the morning we were greeted by our friends from Kachin State as we boarded our steamer.

image

image

We walked down this bridge to our boat. Inside along both rails were our friends from Kachin State.

This three decker stem ship was a nice easy trip down the river! And made more enjoyable being able to visit with many international delegates and Myanmar brothers and sisters.

image

Friends, it was 96° and very humid! This sister next to me was wearing a long sleeve black velvet top covered with layers of silver! And her dress was hand knitted wool with other knitted wrapped garment pieces. She came from the high mountainous areas in Kachin State! She didn’t seem hot… But I was as you can see by how flushed I was!

I loved seeing this area of Burma! The delta area gets a whopping 118″ of rain a year! Jungle jungle everywhere! Though I heard of stories of Crocks and Pythons, I didn’t see any! Just roiling muddy water and little villages barely hanging on to the side of the river!

image

I was especially fond of the gaily painted Long Boats which seemed to come in all sizes.

image

Most were out-fitted with a two cycle motor on the back which seemed to be a very fast and efficient way to transport people up and down the river leaving larger crafts to transport bamboo building materials, bricks, poles and whatever else that was transported on big barges and boats.

image
Bricks waiting for transport

image

Each village has a Pagoda in the center. It seems that Myanmar is the land of pagodas! They dot the country side everywhere!

image

Yes that is a Buddha under a Cobra on the right! Notice the man in the boat in front. It seems that these long flat boats designed for fishing in shallow water are best rowed standing up! I feat I don’t think I could manage! I fact I’ve seen some men fish while standing on one foot, steer with the other foot while casting nets into the water! Amazing!

image

Twante we are here! Read the next blog!

The Village of Twante

Twante, a little village on the rivers edge! We were to visit one of the many family operated pottery making businesses.

image

Long Boats ready for use. They are fast boats with 2 cycle motors attached in the back to transport people and goods across the river. They are always gaily painted all colors of the rainbow! An artist can be inspired!

image

Vendors selling on what we would consider the Market Street. A long strip of little family operated stalls selling everything needed or not…

image

My Kayah studies tell me that this mom and little boy are selling a type of potato that is sweet.

image

A walk past the ever present Buddhist Pagoda.

image

A villager’s house. I didn’t feel comfortable taking pictures of most of the houses we walked past for you could see straight into them and see their occupants! This house was unusually private. Meaning, we couldn’t see into it because it had bamboo thatch mats for walls! There is little privacy in a little village! The barrels next to the house hold water carried from the town cistern.

image

The town cistern is their fresh water source and place to do the laundry.

image

Twante is known for their beautiful Hibiscus pots. Here is how they are made.

The family business we visited was a row of dark, cool huts dug into the ground

One hut is where strong lean men  pulverized the clay silt into a powder by breaking  up the clay silt from the river using long heavy poles that they lift repeatedly and drop it down on the clay clods pulverizing them to a fine powder.

The next hut was more open and they worked with hand cranked mixers where they mixed water into the clay. Then the clay was placed in a depression in the dirt floor where people stomped the clay with their bare feet!

The third hut was a very dark large cool place where there were pot turning tables sunk into the ground. A turner would squat and hand spin the potting wheel while a second person squatting on the dirt floor would form the pot.

image

It is no easy job making pots! It requires much skill as we found out! Several of us got the opportunity to try our hands at making pots!

The final process in pot making after the pots have dried is kilning. As we peeked inside this hut we could see a giant beehive kiln maybe 12 foot tall loaded with wood and pots that were being fired. What amazed me was that the bamboo thatched hut almost touched the top of the kiln! It makes me wonder how often they burnt down the hut!

image

The whole process to make the large Twante style pots with Hibiscus flowers painted on the side takes about two weeks. These people work very hard! It is dirty dusty work!

Burmese Scaffolding

We saw this precarious system of scaffolding all over Yangon. It is a single layer of bamboo poles tied together with ropes. This whole non OSHA approved scaffolding is hung down the sides of buildings for agile workers to climb and work. Not for the faint of heart! And the Burmese workers preform their areal work while wearing a longi!

image

The Kayah

Many who know me know I work with the Karenni refugees. The Karenni are from Kayah State. Many Karenni left Kayah State when the Military took over Burma. The Karenni that are left in Kayah State live in camps guarded by the Military. Few are free to travel.

14 came to the ‘ God’s Word Is Truth!’ International Convention in Yangon. In a crowd of 8,000 they were difficult to find! By Sunday I decided I probably wouldn’t be able to find them! When I boarded the bus Sunday morning I was sad and a bit tearful.

All the friends on the bus knew I was heavy in heart so I imagine more prayers than mine were said to Jehovah! Please help me find the Kayah!

I had brought three Bibles printed in Kayah Li which are very rare and hard to obtain to give to them. It was suggested that I take the Bibles to the Service desk at the convention.

Upon arriving to the convention a brother offered to take me to the Service desk which was below the stadium. I explained to the brother at the Service desk my not being able to find the Kayah and could he please find them and give them the Bibles. He said he would do his best.

I left the room with heavy heart! I had spent a whole year thinking I would find the Kayah and I would sit with them for the whole convention. And I couldn’t find them!

So I left the room where the service desk was and bumped into Br Tamang from San Diego! He is a brother well into his 90’s that I met almost five years past when he came to help us with our first Burmese Memorial in Austin! I barely had time to give him a squeeze when  I hear, “Sister! Sister, I found the Kayah!”

I made a mad dash down hall and there standing in front of me was my Karenni sister in her Kayah cultural clothing!

image

She took me to her family.

image

image

I was a very grateful servant of Jehovah! When we sang the opening song and prayer I broke down and sobbed! I had been so distraught to find them and here I was sitting with them!

They couldn’t figure out why I was crying! This crazy lady is sitting with them! Through tearful explanations I told them I thought I wasn’t going to find them!

I had a joyful day and a wonderful lunch with them!

image

The sister on my left was the only literate one there. She took notes furiously during every session to take back to their congregation!

They had a 6 day trip in an open bus down dirt roads to return home ahead of them! And I know Jehovah will help them to share all the blessings Jehovah gave them when they get home to their tiny congregation!

Forgive me for not sharing their names for they don’t live in a land of freedom. Pray for all the Brothers and Sisters in Myanmar. Many places are still very dangerous for them.

I feel honored and grateful that I was able to visit my brothers in Myanmar. I love them! And I pray that Jehovah continues to find ways to use me in teaching the Myanmar refugees. And like many of their signs that they made for us said, “See you in paradise!”