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Friday, October 06, 2006

Myanmar, day 5 -- orphanage

Orphans young and old
We left the hotel at 9:30am for an orphanage. My uncle and aunt have been contributing to it for a long time already, and every year, they pay a visit to see how it's doing and bring some donated stuff.

For this visit, we met the orphanage's leader, Tui Hing, at the hotel. Annie also joined us to see what goes on there. During the journey, the leader, who was also an orphan, related how he had been born again as a Christian and went on to help other orphans. He also mentioned that the government has begun requiring all orphanages to be registered, which means that they also cannot function overtly as places of religious worship.

Along the way, we stopped by a fruit stall to buy bananas. The Myanmarese apparently believe that bananas help to prevent diseases, like indigestion and other stomach-related ailments.

Next to the fruit seller were a couple of men hanging around and playing chess.

The orphanage houses about 40 children ranging from three-year-olds to teenagers. They greeted us with a Christian song sung in Myanmarese. We returned the favour by teaching them "Jesus loves me". It took about 15 minutes to get through the song.

After that, the kids sat in a circle and Annie led a game. It went like this: a person pats his/her thighs twice while saying his/her name twice, then claps two times saying his/her name once followed by another person's name. The idea was to get to know everyone's names, though, of course, I couldn't remember five of them by the time we were done.

And then it was time for lunch. A quick prayer, and then everyone dug into packets of nasi bryani, which my aunt and uncle had arranged to buy and paid for. Everyone ate hungrily, as this is apparently their annual treat, i.e. when my auntie and uncle visit. It was also amazing to see the small kids finish their huge packets of food. Another observation that warmed my heart was when the older kids helped the younger ones tear apart the chicken for easier consumption.

Some of them didn't finish their food. Apparently, the treat will last for a few more meals.

For dessert, they ate the bananas that we had bought earlier. Of course, kids being kids, some of them even compared the sizes of their bananas first!

My aunt then began to distribute the donated items. I decided to walk around the compound. At the rear of the house, I found the dark and bare kitchen. Its rudimentary stove resembled something out of the 1950s. In an adjacent room, I saw an orphan sleeping snugly under a blanket. Perhaps she was sick?

Then I had to answer nature's call. (Later, I was to learn that there's a better toilet elsewhere.)

I returned to find that the clothes distribution was still ongoing. Meanwhile, some kids already had their goodies, like snacks and toys. Everyone seemed pleased with their gifts.

At about 1:30pm, we walked about five minutes to reach another building that's part of the orphanage. The plan had been to turn it into a teahouse, but it was rejected by the village leadere for fear that it would become a place of Christian worship. So it's now another hostel for the older orphans, though there are plans to make it a grocery store to sell some of the orphanage's produce.

Tree-covered rear of the second hostel.

Outside, I heard a constant chirping. It sounded like something from a mechanical toy. Only this sound came from real live chicks. Haha, like a city slicker, I felt compelled to photograph the hen and her brood.

Along the way back, we passed by a few village houses. I wonder if I could stay for a long time at such a run-down house. We also met a family that was cooking a pot of rice outside. Maybe their house didn't have a proper kitchen.

It was time to say goodbye to the orphanage. We went to visit one of my uncle's friends, then stopped by J's Irrawaddy Dream, a high-class souvenir shop and cafe owned by Singaporeans Jennifer Teo and Helen Yeo (wife of former Transport Minister, Yeo Cheow Tong) with signs warning against touching the plants. Escape from Paradise, anyone?

Dinner was at Over Sea Chinese Restaurant again, where we also had mooncake brought by my aunt. After that, we walked back to Park Royal. Along the way, we passed by several cinemas showing Hollywood and Bollywood movies. What caught my attention was that these cinemas had the old-school design with the winding staircase, manual box office and snacks seller, all of which are no longer found in Singapore. Too bad I didn't bring my camera along.

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