Myanmar Mission Trip, 151216-191216 (Part 1)

*My 2nd time drafting this, let’s hope I can complete this post haha*

Read part 2 here >

Read part 3 here >

Hi guys! I’m going to blog about my Myanmar missions trip before I proceed on to the next part of my travel destination, Thailand. I’m slowly failing to recall various parts of what happened so I knew I had to pen it down before it’s too late…dang, it’s been 2 months. How time flies. I mean of course I remember the overall details like what we did and where we went but I wanted to write down the meaningful conversations shared and my thoughts that came with them. I don’t know about you but that’s the most precious part of every trip to me.

You can read my pre-trip thoughts here.

So…here we go.

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Our flight was at 0720 so I had to get up around 4am and reach the airport by 5am! I didn’t even manage to sleep at all…was really grumpy with an empty stomach too and it ruined my flight because my mum and I fought on the way to the airport. Till today, I remembered her not saying goodbye to me and I boarded the plane feeling like this whole thing is gonna start on a bad note. I forgot what we fought about. So silly HAHAHA.

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All the various briefings and such

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On board! One of the first pictures taken with my fake gopro. I took it out to test on the plane. Not bad right! Got it for 60SGD only. 🙂 I’ve always wanted a gopro because of the wide angle and how its so small and convenient.

Throughout the whole plane ride I was just listening to music and sleeping. I bought a book along with me to read but ended up dozing off instead loooool. Was thinking, “hopefully I’ll get to read it on the bus ride tomorrow from Yangon to Pyay,” because the ride to the village will be 6 hours long. Didn’t really catch much quality sleep though because I don’t own any travel pillows whatsoever to make sleeping more comfortable. I even wanted to get started on diary writing but I failed terribly!! To me, updating my diary on the plane is a great opportunity to get whatever thoughts prior the trip out first. In the end the flight attendant handed me some immigration form and I ended up filled that out instead of writing my diary. HHAHA.

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So we finally arrived in Myanmar @ 9.49am! Remembered the time accurately because I have a travel diary with me where I jot down small details like this ahaha. It is very handy if you are like me, always blogging months behind time due to busy schedule. By the time you want to blog, everything would have been forgotten already if not for the diary.

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I thought I would be displeased about the weather but no, I’m so glad to go out in the hot sun because hours of being in the stuffy airport and plane got me so tired. I was sneezing and my nose was running.

We cleared customs, bought our 3G (as usual) and headed out to board the taxi. Then I made my first two friends—Helen & Wendy. There’s a huge age gap between us but there are super young at heart (no kidding!!!) Helen bought chicken drumsticks to munch on in the meantime because she said she was hungry. Then the smell of the chicken drumsticks was so strong in the taxi I felt like drooling hahahah. Inside my head i was thinking if she’d came here for a luxurious holiday or to volunteer for mission trip ahaha.

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We had so much trouble transporting our big bags into the taxi. It was so chaotic! The airport was very crowded and thank God the Burmese were there to help us. Dragging our baggage with us, we have to navigate between lanes and lanes of cars to get to our taxis. I’m a little reluctant about accepting help at first because Lucy (my leader) told me that sometimes they will demand money after helping you for what it seems to be “free service”.

ps/ I’m not sure if there’s such thing as a taxi stand there 😂

When we’re on the taxi, I noticed the roads there have no lanes to separate the vehicles that are going in opposite directions. If I’m not wrong the traffic lights there are quite old, and on some roads they don’t even have traffic lights.

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We reached Hotel Corella and checked in. The first thing we automatically reached for was: WIFI!!! I liked our hotel, especially the lobby. Nothing too fancy but its very cosy and clean. To me that’s the most important thing, not really luxury. It has the Balinese vibes hahah and I expected it to be bigger! Every furniture in the lobby was mostly made of wood and it smelled like wood.

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Our room allocation! Stacy was my roommate. We got our room keys and proceeded to find room 102 but guess what. We took the lift up with all our baggage only to find that our room is on the ground floor. Then, we had to burden the staff there to carry our heavy stuffs back down 😂

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Stacy’s & my room! Stacy, is on the medical team for this trip because she’s a surgeon. She told me some stuff about what goes on in the medical industry as well as some of her day to day experiences of being a doctor. Was reaaally mind blowing. Another eye opener is the “behind the scenes” of what goes on in the operating theatre, and I would say she’s experienced stuff that normal people wouldn’t usually experience.

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The hotel wifi sucks though. It has 0 connection in my room, that means each time I need to go online, I have to step out to the lobby to use the internet. I have stepped out to the lobby thrice already and its so awkward because the hotel staff wouldn’t stop staring at me. My first time was to send whatsapps, 2nd was to download some gopro app to sync my pictures and the third time was to send some emails.

The router was also really weak. I had to walk miles away from the hotel in order to call my family hahaa. I also had to practically strain my ears to hear what my mum was saying over the phone.

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The good thing is, their decor is great. You’ll see why later. They set up a xmas trees cos it’s December at that time I went!

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Hotel Corella hung fairy lights all over the exterior of the hotel and I mean ALL OVER. It means when night falls, the whole building would be covered in fairy lights! My paradise hahaha. This is how it looks like in the day.

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But at night..

It’s very pretty.

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Right after checking in, the first thing we did was to go to the restaurant to have lunch. IM SO FAMISHEDD. It’s my first meal there in Myanmar and it’s really great!

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What a spread! We had chicken Bryani rice, soup, and their desserts are really special.

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Look at the desserts…some corn thingy and some sweet cake with a very unique texture that tasted just like 年糕. Anyways we got wifi at the restaurant too!

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With the group of volunteers!! We had a “youth” table hahaha and all the youths sat together. Stacy and Peter joined us (cos Stacy claimed to be young at heart) and we chatted and I got to know that Peter runs an advertising/web design company. I always thought that he looked like my lecturer Alfred looooool. I told Peter that and he was just like, “I haven’t gone into teaching yet,” HAHAHAHA.

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After lunch, we walked to Ocean Supermarket to buy things to pack and prepare for the big mission the next day. We’re practically walking alongside cars la hahaha. They have no sidewalk! Their roads are really rocky and sandy.

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They have many street side stalls too! Just like Thailand. Super similar. I also realised Yangon grows dark really quickly. Like 7pm and its all black already hahha.

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At Ocean Supermarket I took some pictures and the locals stopped me. I found out the Burmese don’t really like being taken pictures of. Ocean supermarket shopping was crazy!! We bought so much stuff I am not even kidding. We had a car to ferry all the items back to the hotel.

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How Ocean Supermarket looks like on the inside.

Anyways we went back and unloaded all the stuff unto the hotel lobby, and began unpacking them at the narrow corridor at the 1st level because that was the only available space! Even though we obstructed the corridor, seeing the other guests come out of their rooms looking so surprised about the commotion outside makes me wanna laugh. You should have seen their facial expressions.

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It was hardcore unpacking. There are two places to go: Laputta and Pyay. What happens is we will split into 2 groups and go on our separate ways tomorrow. Half the team would go to Laputta and the other half would go to Pyay. I got picked to go to Pyay. Everyone was working really hard to classify and organise the cartons and cartons of stuff, it was like some mass production factory!!!!

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There were soooo many items and a lot of goodie bags to pack. There were new stationary for the kids, T-shirts and toothbrush kits for the adults, there were bottles and bottles of water, swiss rolls, snacks, socks and just about all the daily necessities you can think of.

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Helen (the lady in brown pants) was so funny. She packs everything at lightning speed I am not even kidding. And she kept saying she’ll deploy her Pyay staff (which is me & those going to Pyay) to pack and everything is like a factory LOL I think it’s the most efficient I have worked for a long long time.

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Poor lighting but this is the best selfie I can take at that point in time. While packing, I out of the blue remembered I did not bring my charger for the trip. Outside I appeared calm but inside, I was already cursing hahah. I flipped my whole luggage out and that was when I realised—I really did leave my charger in Singapore. What luck…

Then they gave out santa claus hats for each of us! Its for the Christmas Skid we’ll be doing on Sunday morning when we go to the rural churches. Sorry for the cmi face but this is the best I could look because my period struck me that morning on the plane..what luck again. First thing I got when I fly on the plane HAIH. It has to be on a mission trip too…why can’t it come later during the Thailand trip!?!? Hope God bless me by curing my cramps pls

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All done! They put all the stuff in Stacy and my room because our room is the only room that is downstairs. (apart from Joshua’s room, but their room is full already)

“Come to think of it, it’s miraculous that we managed to bring all of that stuff past customs because it was really a lot,” Stacy said.

I agree. Bags and bags of goodies and giveaways and presents, yet half of it was brought through customs and the other half was then bought from Ocean Supermarket. Thank God He has blessed us so abundantly.

I must have worked really hard during unpacking because I accidentally fell asleep during “free time” & was the last to join the team for dinner. I felt bad though. I don’t want to not feel well for the rest of the trip because I came on this trip to help people, not to be a burden to anyone or rely on people to take care of me.

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After I woke up my contact lenses of one side of my eye were so blurry, I thought the contacts rolled to the back of my eye and felt so horrible during the walk to the dinner place. (Turns out it was just blurry in the end)

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Dinner was the best. It’s seriously the best because we tried real Burmese food and its so heavenly. It’s also really cheap. She’s Stacy, the roommate I mentioned earlier! I’m really happy to grow closer to her. At first I dont know how she’s like but first impression tells me she is a nice person, super smiley and all. Turns out she’s like me! freaking high maintenance ahaha. We shared make up tips, facial tips, where we thread our brows, how she got Lasik done which she told me was quite value for money in the long run HAHA. We joked and said how both of us are super vainpot hahaa and she’s also fascinated by my manicure. I told her I got it at a very cheap price (which she asked for my lobang later).

We also shared a lot of stuff. Her facial cleanser, my NARS concealer, loose powder and this whole trip feels like a make up and beauty haul HAHAHA. We laughed a lot. She even bought a hairdryer and hair straightener for this mission trip hahha which initially she didn’t want to tell me for fear that I would judge her (which I didn’t, by the way)—because I perfectly understand the struggles of having a bad hair day.

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We have the Myanmar traditional fish soup, which tastes a bit like tom yum with sour and the spicy taste. We also ordered Shan noodles and Nangyi thoke. I like how my noodles reminds me of the popiah incredients and how it sticks together to feel really QQ & unique. Whoa I sound like food blogger hahah but I really love trying out native food.

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Night falls in Yangon! On our walk back to the hotel after dinner, we passed by some happening bars and clubs. The thing is it gets really dark in Myanmar by the time it’s 6.30, 7pm or so. After dinner was just mainly free time, and rest. I went back to the hotel to sync my photos, write my diary and just fell asleep soon after due to sheer fatigue from the unpacking. Because its the first day, there’s a lot of settling down etc, but it’s going to get more exciting here I promise!

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DAY 2 

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Woke up early to find that a beautiful sunrise was greeting us at the roof of the hotel, giving us a wonderful view with the pagoda in the faint distance. Did I mention Myanmar is famous for their huge and many pagodas?? The sun rises really early in Yangon and this view totally made waking up early at 5am worth it.

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We had worship and devotion at the hotel lobby and it was very interesting and refreshing! Uncle Herbert, the worship leader, reminded us of how we are here not by chance, but God brought us—each and every one of us—here for a reason. Whatever reasons we have for joining, we should try our best to just seek that purpose and plan for our lives. I’m still trying to find my role as a designer in missions. How can I help? I don’t know how I can contribute and hopefully, I’ll be able to discover what I should do after my graduation soon.

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Then Uncle Herbert told us a story. It was a story about a young man who went for an interview. Upon seeing his certificates and achievements, the interviewer said, “It’s excellent. You have very good qualifications, do you have a scholarship for your education?” The young man said no. The interviewer then asked, “Who paid for your education?” He replied, “my parents.”
“What does your parents do?”
Turns out his parents were clotheswashers. The interviewer then asked the young man to go home and wash his parents’ hands before coming back the next day. He was puzzled, but he did so anyway.

When he was washing his parents’ hands, he noticed that they are wrinkly and bruised due to soaking in water for long hours. He realised how hard his parents worked to pay for his education. The interviewer asked him what he had learnt the next day, and he replied that he was very thankful for his parents, that he appreciated what they did for him because those hands were the very hands that paid for his education.

In actual fact, our lives are like this too. Our parents, your parents, my parents constantly sacrifice for us in order to give us their best. I know it sounds very cliche to say this but: we should give thanks to our parents for everything done so far. Maybe if I stopped being selfish thinking about my education/job and shit, my parents wouldn’t be so defensive and jittery about who’s going to support them in future. It breaks my heart to see how tired and hard our parents work everyday, and I do know of friends whom parents are suffering just to earn money.

We sang 3 songs, each song twice in worship. Then we closed in prayer.

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We then went up to the 8th floor to have breakfast. It reminds me of Goodearth hotel, Perth, where I stayed there a long long time ago when I was 13. Our breakfast dining area was really quiet and serene, overlooking the sunrise!

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I sat with Joshua Daniel and Rachel. Showed them my HK travel vlog and they were really impressed, asking me to make a vlog for this trip soon…but until now…..I still haven’t started ahahhaa FYP has sucked out all my time man. I had rice for breakfast! RICE! who eats rice for breakfast…..then I ate scrambled eggs, sausages, some veg too. After I finished everything then I discovered there was porridge…..why T.T

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After breakfast, it was THE JOURNEY. We took a group photo and split up with the Laputta team. There were 2 buses. We uploaded all our baggage and goodie bags on the bus and off we went, on a 6 hour long bus ride to the rural areas. So long, Yangon!

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I sat at the front of the bus, with Stacy!! I already came prepared for this long journey, with my travel Spotify playlist and my book to keep me busy. I love long car rides because they give me time to think, to reflect and most of all to imagine. Or just simply looking out of the window satisfies me. My creative juices and thought flow best when I’m on a bus or a vehicle of some sort ahaha.

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The ride was bumpy and the roads aren’t smooth at all. I guess they were filled up pebbles and what not such that I could feel my butt lift up from the seat whenever there was a bump HAHAHA. Those people at the back had it worse. Joshua was sitting at the last row and he said those goodie bags (which we unloaded onto the last row of seats bc there weren’t anymore space in the storage area) kept falling on him. The whole bus was literally shaking from side to side (no kidding), and it was so dangerous that we do not dare to put anything in the overhead compartment anymore for fear it may fall and hit our heads.

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I sat on the front row of the bus so I could see the local scene and lives of the people quite easily. So far the weather’s been pretty good, I think cooler than Singapore! We passed this school zone, and so we saw school children carrying lunch boxes. It’s super common for them to bring their food to school in those sliver metal like lunch boxes (every lunch box has a standard design) and everyone just carries those around.

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We passed by a paddy field, some goats and cows—the cows were HUGE..

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The bus was moving too fast, didn’t manage to capture it properly T.T

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This bridge our bus crossed. The journey was 6 hours and if I’m not wrong, we were about 2 hours into the ride already.

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Not long after, we stopped for a toilet break at a petrol kiosk which signifies something for me. The kiosk was in the middle of nowhere, and a rural area indeed:

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This was where our bus stopped…super ulu area

And the toilet we’re going to just stands alone by itself…its just a standing cubicle, even worse than the portable toilets you see at funerals etc in Singapore. This toilet has no flush system, no toilet paper and not to mention it stinks. I do not want to sound like a spoilt brat but am rather just reporting the accurate factual state of the toilet. Normally, I would not even go to squat toilets back in Singapore, so going to these kind of toilets which are 10 times worse than squat toilets are rather out of the question for me. In short, it is totally out of my comfort zone.

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Look at my expression and body language that says it all…while others look at my reaction in amusement hahaha

I’d rather hold my pee, but something came over me that day. I told myself since this is a mission trip, I should come prepared. “Lay down your rights,” the team always said, until it becomes a common phrase and everyone would erupt with laughter whenever it’s being said. It’s rejoicing in our situation, rejoicing in the joys of helping others, while bearing in mind we having a loving home to return to while these people we are helping have little.

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So I decided to step in.

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It was pitch dark when I shut the door behind me. However, I didn’t wince or hold my breath at all. Because its not at all smelly, to my surprise! This may come across as a miracle to fellow Christians, while others would see it as merely “chance” but I see it as a testimony of God’s power working to seal my nose from the stench. “You have a blocked nose Grace,” you might argue, but this is really not the case as I was breathing perfectly well! It is impossible that the toilet didn’t produce any stench. I told the whole team at night about it and they all agreed it was a powerful testimony, I just found it very peculiar how the smell just vanished the minute I went inside.

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With my newfound passion in missions, I told myself this is just the beginning of the journey—there is more to come and more to endure if I wanted to venture into the slums, venture into the developing countries to help more people. It’s time to live simply and give up my lifestyle as a high maintenance city girl (oops not guilty). I shouldn’t let little things like this bother me. In my opinion, the most fortunate thing in the world is having a safe and comfortable home to return to wherever you are in the world. And that is the greatest asset I am thankful for.

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Next up was lunch! We were all famished…actually I thought that our mission trip is already quite comfortable. Good food, good accommodation. I am high tolerant, so I find this okay because the very least I expected homestay YET turns out we stayed in a hotel. Maybe it’s because we have a lot of adults on this trip, so older people prefer…a certain level of comfort regardless?? AM I RIGHT??

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The lady on the left hand side is the Burmese pastor’s wife. She’s so kind and friendly and she knows how to speak english as well!

Anyway, as I was saying, we will even be sleeping at a hotel while in the village. I didn’t expect that but I think it’s really good. Compared to my previous OSIP trips and my Bintan experience, I think this trip is already very comfortable. I even read this article somewhere about a humanitarian volunteer who slept in the slums with villagers with no light, no warmth and lots of bed bugs at night. Some places even have a leaking ceiling and water comes in when it rains. I think that’s the ultimate “put to test” if I were to live under such conditions. Mine is not the legit 100% mission trip experience where you get to sleep in homestays etc but it is definitely much better than the kampong life.

Most of the Myanmar food is really awesome except its a little oily. It’s okay, I still enjoyed it. After lunch we just went back to the bus and continued our 6 hour ride to Pyay. It was really a marathon (for the driver) HAHA. Most of the bus ride I am just either sleeping, listening to music, reading or writing my scribe.

Then we arrived, at Nawaday Hotel. It’s really pretty for a developing area in the midst of a developing nation. The sky was so blue, it almost looked like a vector in Adobe Illustrator LOL.

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With that, I would end part 1 here because I feel its really enough for a post, even though I’ve only talked about the first 2 days. Stay tuned for part 2 Myanmar trip, because there’ll be kids and they’re really cute! You would want to see them.

Update: Hi! You have come to the end of the post. Click HERE to view part 2, and HERE to view part 3 of the Myanmar missions trip blog series!

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