I’m not going to divide this into many parts like what I did the last round so let’s see if I can finish this. Most of the stuff are already recounted on the spot while I type in notes on my iPhone.
Had to decide between this and some other vacation my friends were planning and in the end I settled for this because I promised Aunty Lucy to go back to serve. Turns out it was the best decisions I’ve ever made #noregrets.
Arrived at 5.55am @ Changi Airport today!!! It was pouring when we came with all our baggage. There was a freaking jam and as our car was pulling into the driveway (I came with Aunty Lucy), we saw Rachel (my soon-to-be roomie) pulling her luggage into T2. She was earlier than us! Nothing much, just briefed and checked in all our baggage. Very heavy because most of it are camp stuff for the kids. Was praying reaaaally way hard that it can get through Myanmar customs safely later.
SQ flight was so comfortable and all, with hot towels, blankets, and pillows; except that it was very cold!!! Checked the travel info and the temperature outside was -50 something degrees wtf. I sat beside Rachel. We talked a lot. Aunty Sam, who roomed with her last time, said, “she will help you clean toilet one!” hhahaha so I thought it was really important to get along with her (just kidding). I just discovered during the final briefing in Singapore that in fact Rachel & I knew each other all along! The first time I saw her, I found her so familiar but couldn’t really lay my mind on where I’ve seen her before. Didn’t think much of it then. During the last briefing days before we flew, she came up to me and asked, “Hey were you from PL?”
I was not so surprised. “PL Primary?” I asked.
I was puzzled cos I don’t remember her being in any of my classes in primary school.
“Yeah. Are you from Faith?”
My excitement built up. “Yeah, 1 Faith, 2 Faith. You?”
“Oh, I’m from gentleness. Eh I think my mum knows your mum.”
“Really? Who’s your mum?” I was even more intrigued now.
“Aunty Priscilla,” Rachel said. “You go back and ask your mum la, I think she knows who my mum is.”
I’m just really relieved we broke the ice and introduced ourselves before we went Myanmar. When we went back we even messaged quite a bit so…not too bad, that’s a starter. I remembered I didn’t even talk to Joshua (my teammate at my last mission trip) until the departure day at Changi Airport hahaha.
Flew in after a 2 hours plus flight and was indeed greeted by the familiar & famous sight of pagodas, and a very pretty sky! Getting past customs + out of the airport was a chore. We were stuck at the conveyor belt for such a long time because Rachel lost her luggage. Then, this random woman came running up to her and in her hands was Rachel’s maroon luggage! That woman took the wrong luggage……………..
Temperature outside was 40 degrees. It was really burning hot walking from our lodging area to our lunch. We also needed to go to the supermart to get some more food + stuff for the camp, but I am sort of thankful for the warm weather because the freezing temp in the plane made my nose run like crazy.
We went to eat lunch! I bought my fav Shan noodles from this eating place again. I was craving this food everyday ever since I left Myanmar. Cheap and good! In fact, I was craving it so much that when the team sat at another eating place for lunch, I came over here to buy take-outs……..
Bought the Shan noodles over and brought it next door to the other eating area to eat with my teammates.
Doesn’t look like it but we had food coma after lunch!! Went to Ocean supermart to stock up on camp supplies & personal stuff. The camp supplies we needed to buy are FAR lesser than the last round (the trip I went in December).
The supermart was crowded!! The day after is their Burmese New Year and everyone is scrambling around grabbing last minute supplies and gifts. It is also Ocean supermart’s last day operating before they are closed for the new year so it is indeed, insanely packed with people. Honestly wanted to vlog in the supermart but I had to do it sneakily, after being caught not once, BUT TWICE by the Burmese for videoing inside the supermart HHAHHAA.
We got all our stuff and went back to unpack. We packed from about 2pm to 5pm. Predicted about 150 children would turn up for the camp, so we packed lots of extras just in case. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.
The outline of the Day 1 programme goes roughly like this: Camp registration > Ice breakers > songs & worship > Lesson > Lunch > Station games > Craft & Teaching > songs & worship. We plan the days along as we go. Of course there is a draft itinerary but everytime we go on trips like these we anticipate A LOT of changes and nothing is set in stone.
We have a goodie bag prepared for each kid with the orientation starter pack. Then after packing we went for dinner. The sky gets really dark by 6.30pm or so. Dinner was at Taste Dining. Great ambience plus we dined outdoors so it was cooler! It was really windy! Such an awesome temperature drop from the afternoon 40 degrees.
Rachel & I ordered carbonara thinking it’ll be nice but in the end, not only the food was just meh, we also got bitten by plenty of mosquitoes. Was so angry at myself that I forgot insect repellent!!!
Then halfway thru dinner, my team was talking about the Thanaka cream (the yellowish cream Burmese apply on their faces) and its function. Suddenly everyone wanted to get it so bad and that means….
“Hey, today is the last day to get it because Ocean’s not gonna be open anymore!”
At that point it was around 7.30pm and we were all asking the waitresses what time the supermart closes. Just a simple question requires so much effort and body language….thanks to language barriers.
“It closes at 9pm!!!”
We did make it there upon hearing it! We mass shopped not only Thanaka, but Burmese goodies as well. Aunty Samantha bought around 6 bars of Thanaka soap home! I bought not only Thanaka cream, but the soap as well! Let’s see if my skin improves after this hahah. The team were all teasing me saying, “Aiya you all young people, your skin so good, apply what Thanaka??? Need to use meh?” I pray the days where I’m the youngest in every volunteering trip will never have to pass so fast hehe.
However, I think I bought the cream because it’s part of the local culture…had been wanting to try Thanaka for myself for quite some time now so of course I couldn’t miss this! It’s really affordable (SGD$1.50) & I believe it’s going to be so useful.
We woke up at 5.30AM (almost died trying to get out of bed) The bright side is, we woke up to a hearty breakfast with noodles, porridge, scrambled eggs…and desserts!! Who says we can’t have desserts for breakfast…yummy. I remembered I missed out on the porridge last December when I stayed here. Was so angry because we only had one night’s stay then before we moved on to Pyay. Told myself, “Yes I must grab the porridge this time round.”
So I got that Teochew porridge. An interesting account: I drank spoilt milk. The milk that was used to go with my cereal tasted so sour but by the time I realised it was too late. I already drank all of it! Confirmed with Aunty Lilian because she drank it too and found it funny. Both of us agreed it was sour.
Within 2-3 hours I would have gotten diarrhoea but nothing happened to me. Come to think of it, I ate a lot of oily and spicy food everyday during the trip, but I had no idea why—as a person with a weak stomach—nothing happened to me throughout the trip. Thank God that I can serve effectively!
Got into the taxi straight after breakfast at around 8am. We were on our way when I gazed from the car window and caught sight of a little boy, probably about 5 years old? He was holding garlands of flowers and other stuffs in a basket, selling them on not on the streets, but on the ROADSIDE! How dangerous is that? The problem of child labour is very real in Myanmar. These children are ripped of their childhoods and forced to work as young as 7 years old. I even remembered watching this TV programme where it features Burmese kids working to earn extra income for their families. How much can they make per day? 3000 kyats? Yes. That’s 3 SGD. The emotion that immediately overwhelmed me was pity but I told myself to stop feeling this way. I should feel empathy, not sympathy. I hate pitying people cos I feel that’s a very disrespectful thing to do and no one would love to be pitied. …I felt so helpless. How to help? I longed to just hop out of my car, but what next? Bring them over to prosperous Singapore? The only thing I would do is to stop buying clothes from brands like H&M etc that have factories in Myanmar/ any part of the world that exploit child workers.
When I was in the midst of my thoughts, the traffic cleared and my car drove off.
We arrived about 20 mins later. The camp ground was in this village in a place called Mingalardon. This is the village outdoor compound. They usually play soccer or any kind of outdoor games here. Or they would dry their laundry here. Saw Pastor Chhuana’s wife upon arrival and so happy that she recognised me!! From Pyay 2016. SO nice to see a familiar face.
The children arrive + camp registration
Getting ready!!! Was so overwhelmed cos there were so many children: 80!!! We predicted 150 but thank God it wasn’t 150. When we saw 80, it’s really the right size…any more and we wouldn’t be able to manage.
Orientation was great. We divided them into 5 groups with colour coding. Each of us was in charge of one group and I was put in charge of group green. I’m also the Games IC. Then we’re introduced to our 5 interpreters….
Each of them were attached to one group to assist us. My interpreter’s Zaw, the guy in white at the far right. Will talk more about him later.
The children seating in their groups! Had such a hard time arranging them like this you probably have no idea. It wasn’t that chaotic, it was due to the language barrier.
Spotted Moses and Dina!! Moses is the one right in front & Dina’s the boy in white shirt. They’re both very cute boys even though I only got to probably bond with Dina in the last few days. He became my fav child quickly hahaha. He knows how to speak Chinese (the full story will be covered later!!)
Rachel & her interpreter giving out tote bags, name tags & getting them ready for everything they need in the camp.
Ice breakers was a breeze so I wouldn’t talk much of it. Even though I was so unsatisfied with my performance as Games IC. I thought I would do well but it was meh only. I was constantly racking my head for new games with the little materials we could make do of. Played 3 games in total and the kids enjoyed it a lot!! I could really do better though.
Game #1: Each person have a straw in their mouth. Required to hook rubber bands on the straw, and pass it down the line to the next person behind without dropping it. NO using of hands. Fastest group wins.
Game #2: Relay game. A pair would hop from one end to another, and back again, with rafia strings tying their legs together. Tough.
Game #3: Played similarly to the first game. Using spoons to balance and pass ping pong balls down the line, without using hands. Fastest group wins.
Suddenly halfway when the kids are singing songs, my mind drifted to the child worker I saw earlier today again. There are about 1.3 million children working in Myanmar. 1.3! For all we know, these kids that are here for our camp may very well be amongst those child labourers working the very next day. It’s just a very chilly thought, even though for them, it’s the norm.
Lunch at the village was great. Was very amused by the hospitality of the Burmese team & Pastor Chhuana when hosting us for lunch. The children ate at the camp area but the team prepared a nice little hut with shelter just to accommodate us for lunch. We had pork! I heard they brought the pig in this morning & slaughtered it. One of my teammates saw the pig head hanging over the fire or something!! Sounds brutal isn’t it. But it was very delicious! They even promised to bring a calf in the next day to cook beef hehehhe. For them, they seldom have such delicacies unless there was a special occasion. And we are very honoured to know that our presence is considered a special occasion in their eyes.
Making palm leaves
Aunty Samantha took over and taught the kids how to make palm leaves as craft for palm Sunday.
Then, we got them to sit in their groups where we distributed the materials and we have to go to our assigned groups to guide them with the craft making.
The one on my right: is my interpreter that assisted me with my green group.
Wrote this on Instagram: “With my interpreters Zaw & Dika!! Always said I wanted two elder brothers and now my wish is granted🤗✌️️really respect how kind & driven both of them are. Especially Zaw, he’s 31 and has never even been to half of the countries I’ve mentioned to him. Not even Thailand, which is so close to Myanmar. At that point I was really respecting him for his simple life and the people there, indeed, they are thankful for little and don’t ask for much. I have a lot of people who come up and tell me they have given me their respect just because I chose to volunteer in developing nations but in fact, I’m assured because I know no matter how bad the living conditions here are, I’ll always have a safe and comfortable home back in Singapore to fall back into. However for someone like him, he has been living there all his life, yet lived a life of God’s grace and has a heart for the little children. That, I have tremendous respect for.”
We had about 5 station games where groups would just take turns to go to each station and when we shout “rotate!” they would move from one station to the next. There were darts, bowling pins, and many many other games that either tested their throwing skills or aiming skills. hahah.
The oreo game!! The one where they had to put the oreo on their foreheads, and try to make it go into their mouths without using their hands at all.
Back at our lodging
When the day ended, we gathered for a time of debrief. Aunty Lilian shared how God gave her the peace to know whatever happens, it is okay. In the morning, we are still learning to trust God and make do with what we have instead of relying on our own meticulous planning. And that, kind of set the tone for the day. We weren’t anxious on whether our technology/ phones would die on us the moment we are at the camp. Aunty Lilian said if her laptop fails to power up, her efforts preparing the powerpoint would have been wasted but she does not feel this way. Instead, she trusted God and had this peace.
After the first day! And so freaking exhausted. We were like “just save us man” Headed back to drink my cup of cold Nescafe waiting for me in the fridge.
Dinner was at chinese restaurant because all the other eateries are going to be closed for the ThingYan Fest (Burmese New Year). We literally ate chinese fine dining everyday because that’s the only place that’s open midst the empty streets. We had no where else to eat! It’s like being forced into luxury lololol. Lucky for us, the food was heavenly.
Wanted to order duck but guess what, they were sold out! And instead of serving us omelettes, they served us chinese style pancakes. Turns out we ordered wrongly, what a joke loool. Didn’t manage to eat their famous duck that night so we promised we would come back for duck the next evening.
Guess how much it is? 32,000 kyats for a 8 course meal!!! That’s about $32 SGD for 9 people, means $4 per person for all? these??? luxury??
For the subsequent nights, whenever we are there we just ordered ALOT. 8 course dinner soon increased to 9 course, 10 course and to celebrate the last day of camp, we ordered an 11 course dinner. (WOW) and that was just $50 SGD for 10 people! That’s very cheap for fine dining. Unbelievable. I love Myanmar because everything is so cheap there, cheaper than Bangkok. What’s funnier is that the restaurant staff would stand at the entrance looking forward for our arrival everyday because they knew we would come every evening at 6.30pm without fail.
“Whoah they see us like see 财神爷! Have money to earn already” hahahah.
I was not over yesterday’s debrief. I shared about the problem of child workers in Myanmar. Couldn’t sleep well the whole night because thinking about the little boy who is being forced into child labour on the streets. For all we know, those kids that are in my Easter camp may very well be amongst those child labourers working the very next day. It is a completely mind blowing truth to think in this way.
Ate this thing called mohinga which is something like mee siam with spices except that this Myanmar noodle is VERY NICE!! Due to ThingYan fest, the dishes were more elaborate for breakfast.
Then we made our way to the village. Before the day began, Aunty Lilian said that even though the kids can come for the camp, there might be very real troubles which they face at home. I totally agree. Many of them fool around with their friends and play like crazy but who knows about the financial situation at home? We hope that through songs and fun and games, that we might brighten whatever trials they might face at home.
First thing we did at the village was icebreakers! Once again, I was in charge of games so it was very stressful. (Not that I was unwilling) I got the children to hop with balloons in between their legs. Then we paired them up and asked them to walk with the balloon placed between their backs. Games was lots of fun and I certainly do hope it gets better day by day. Honestly I wanted to get the hang of it. There are icebreakers in the itinerary almost everyday and by the end of the day I have to rack my brain for more new games. We were all overwhelmed by the kids’ energy and their many funny gestures etc so it’s very entertaining and all of them were so cute!! No pictures, so wait for my vlogs hehhe.
Doing crafts with the kids. We aligned our lesson & craft in reference to the events that happened in Palm Sunday > Good Friday > Easter Sunday! We got them to make a total of 7 cards in total, one representing each day of the week and they have to draw, paste, cut and decorate their cards.
By the way, I didn’t really go to the toilet for the whole day that day and I didn’t know how I lasted HAHAHAA. That I could drink so much water and not feel the urge to go to the toilet at all. It was freaking hot that day that I think I downed 3 bottles of mineral water.
The songkran fest was full blown today! For those of you that don’t know, Songkran is a buddhist water festival which people just splash water at random vehicles and passer bys along the streets. It’s one of the only days that are acceptable to do so because they believe that the water will cleanse away the sins of the people.
Today, we saw people on the streets carrying buckets of water, waiting to splash on cars that drove past. Our car got splashed on the way to the camp! The Burmese also treat this occasion as some sort of merrymaking opportunity. They would sit at the back of open-air lorries, with a bottle of beer in hand and music blasting in the background. Then all of them would drink and take drugs to get high during this whole festival, and get splashed when the lorries drove past streets celebrating Songkran.
Which brings me to my next point. I need to talk about this girl who is in her wheelchair. Songkran festival has also caused a lot of accidents to occur, especially people on motorbikes driving past and the impact of the splash can just cause them to be distracted, lose sight of the road & crash, or even worse, crash into someone. This girl was hit by a motorbike just one day before camp. Can you imagine it?? She already signed up for the camp early, and they were just happily going out to buy bread when this kind of thing happened. It didn’t occur to them that this sort of thing would happen at all. Nor did I. I thought this girl was physically disabled at first when she camp to the camp. Turns out no!
PS/ we prayed for her leg afterwards and she could walk. She got off the wheelchair and walked. She is still improving day by day and by the last day of the camp, she doesn’t need that wheelchair anymore. I can testify to this miracle. It is not uncommon that we see healing like this during mission trips. It is extremely encouraging (whether you are a Christian or non christian reading my blog) or not. Just thankful that nothing can stop her from coming to the camp where she will receive abundant blessings from God & love from us x.x
Where they cook the kids food! Our food is cook in a separate area…with shelter and more hygienic conditions I suppose? See told you their hospitality is the best.
Then we released the kids for lunch. They had kampong chicken for lunch and every child was just so cute and bubbly while eating. We also went ahead with our lunch with Pastor Chhuana & his wife, they welcomed us with so many dishes yet again. Plus points for hospitality again. I cannot emphasise this enough. Pastor Chhuana even came with his car every single day to fetch us to the village. Aunty Lucy told him that he didn’t need to do that from today onwards, but he insisted it was no trouble. Truly, he’s a man after God’s heart and a man full of love!
During lunch Pastor Chhuana introduced us to the local delicacies. Didn’t have images of it here but it will be inside my vlog! Will definitely include the youtube link here after it’s been uploaded. The soup they cooked for us is actually sour. It is made from this particular leaf he showed us. The most famous dish, is the ikan blis & the Bala Chuang. The Bala Chuang looks like our Hei bee hiam & tasted super good with plain rice. I am serious.
With my favourite boys (picture below)! They’re really cheeky.
Played with these rascals in the hot weather after lunch and they came up to me and started fanning me with their fans! Tried to take the fans from their hands to fan them instead & they didn’t allow me to serve them at all.
😭😭😭😭I am so loved.
Daphne was sharing the other day that she hopes the country don’t progress so fast, that it might not be a good thing after all. Progression and first world countries + new technologies robs the children of all the innocence and simple life. They won’t be easily excited anymore and definitely need something more appealing than dance or song to entertain them. Sometimes coming here and living the simple life made me realise that I don’t need a lot of stuff to function. Like if my phone spoilt and couldn’t play songs to teach the kids, we would just sing. We realise we don’t really need stuff like whatsapp that supposedly make our life easier because the children would just gather at a fixed time at a fixed place as if it was some unspoken cue. I don’t need fame, money, beauty or power. I don’t need a lot of things.
Indeed, love knows no barriers. Didn’t understand a single word in Burmese but she’s so eagerly clinging on to me. When she smiled I realised her top row of teeth are all decayed….can someone pls help this child 😦
By the way, Lucy asked Rachel & I to go penang with her on her next mission trip. Penang! Wow. Imagine all the food we could eat HAHAHHA. I am seriously too overwhelmed. Just barely completed this, now Penang?! My leader is just too good, man. Knows me so well to plan all these adventures & invite me in advance 😂 Rachel also said she’s probably going to India at the end of the year.
Me teaching them how to selca hahahha.
Then more of them came and surrounded me. The end result! Wuhuuuu.
Distributing cups and cups of orange juice & biscuits for their tea break!
As we wrapped up the day…
Just right after station games ended, a strong gust of wind came and the temperature dropped from 40 degrees to 24 degrees within an hour or so. Unbelievable! It looked like there was a storm brewing. We all thought it was going to rain but there was no rain at all. Not a single drop.
Because the area was so dusty, sand and dust flew everywhere whenever a gust of wind blew. It was crazy. I had to wear sunglasses to shield the sand from going into my eyes and I was hoping no one’s gonna judge me for wearing sunglasses on a rainy day. I mean, that’s just weird, right?
As we were leaving, 5 or 6 girls came up to me and gave me bunches of flowers, one by one. And they were beautiful, pink, flowers; those kind that I have loved since I was a child. I thought it was really magical. The magic lies in the gesture itself and I really didn’t expect them to give it to me. That’s when it dawned upon me that although I always claimed that I’m here to serve, I have been receiving in ways I have never thought of.
Usual morning routine today. Devotion, breakfast, and off we go! I had some creamy chicken noodle soup today. It was really good, as usual, wait for my food vlog. Then we went to the village again: a place full of warmth, laughter and joy. The children would always run to the front yard and welcome us wherever our cars pulled into the driveway. It’s really heartening to see their reactions and eagerness to greet us. Such a lovely way to start the day! And a sign to show that they’re starting to bond with us. The connection is there 😀
We immediately opened with games. Was super enthu during this particular day I have no idea why, maybe because I prepared well the night before. I could only say the games got better with each passing day. At first I was really frustrated from planning games but to my surprise, I only grew to love this games IC role more and more. I really enjoyed today’s games. It’s really encouraging to see children responding to the new games you introduced with such energy!!
We began with one round of demonstration. This was the demo for wacko. I planned to play pass the parcel > blow wind blow > Wacko. Started with pass the parcel because it was the easiest. We didn’t even have to demo for that one.
Yes it’s wacko! HAHAHHAAH oh no look at the unglamness from laughing out loud. Ugly but very happy
PS/ Sorry for the pic quality.
Real game starts
Wacko & blow wind was a bit tricky because they are games that relies heavily on communication. Honestly, we almost wanted to give up. Even the interpreter didn’t understand the game when we explained it to him. So how could he explain it to our kids? The rest of the team kept asking me to change game but I refused because it’s such a great game to be missed…somehow deep down I believe my kids are smart and had this gut feeling that if we tried harder, they would understand. Even Look at Rach & I, grasping our hair in exasperation hahah.
That’s why we had to demo.
I knew we would overcome the communication barrier. I had a feeling that the kids would love this game once they got it and true enough, they grasped it!! They are really fast learners and I felt super satisfied in a long long time. Bringing our favourite Singaporean school camp favourites to this small village tucked in Burma is really…cool. As if I have just introduced a part of Singapore to them.
Wacko was really intense. I thought it was gonna be slow but NO. They were all so fast in calling out names, nobody wanted to be the wacker anymore HAHAHHAA. Here’s Dina & Dika. So cute heheheh even their name rhymes
Oh yeah…I saw this girl crying today. I really wanted to go up and comfort her. Did something bad happen at home? Has it got to do with the typhoon rain? I’m not sure if is..I have no idea. I’m just very confused I guess. I didn’t have the courage to go up and just strike up a conversation like that. I wanted to ask what happened but I’m afraid she might push me away. I’m not sure what happened but I think what held me back was the language barrier too.
Anyway, lunch was really great today. with beef. The past few days we have been eating really good pork but today’s lunch menu was very good fish, beansprouts and beef!!! I think today was the day that I really connected and talked to the kids the most.
My interpreter Zaw came up to me and asked me if I could have a photo taken with him tomorrow. I said sure of course, then he asked me when am I going back to Singapore. I told him and there was an awkward pause. “Can I ask you something?”
Thought he was going to ask something funny or what but in the end he just asked for my Facebook loooool. He kept telling me he wants to visit SG and that’s when I realised he didn’t travel out of Myanmar at all.
In the afternoon it started pouring really heavily when the kids were taking pictures at the photo booth. The temperature dropped so drastically! We were laughing because Rachel said something along the lines of, “wah they don’t need to celebrate songkran already, the sky help them splash water,” HAHAHA.
There was this huge leakage in the roof and water was pouring down savagely & flooding the whole area. From the holes in the roof. We were packing the photo frames when we were told to evacuate the area because the roof might collapse. “Evacuate!! Evacuate! Pack and go.”
“It might be a typhoon rain and its dangerous for y’all to stay on.”
Blood drained from my face. I was so scared the roof could not take the weight of the water that was collecting up above and would just give way! Kids were still playing directly under that broken part of the roof, so I’m more worried for them.
The photo booth’s function was to make the children feel special and loved enough to have their individual photo taken. They don’t get to take pictures often, in fact, not at all. We prepared props like tiaras and party hats and crowns for them to wear like royalty to take a picture. We even drawn up a backdrop decorated with balloons and every child was queuing up so eagerly, and we could sense that they truly felt special enough. Then we instant printed the photos, put it in a photo frame and gave it to them for keepsake.
With my 4 precious princesses!! Was just talking to them when the girls pulled me in to take a picture at the photo booth. I think that was my favourite moment yesterday. I’ve always yearned for a deeper connection, a stronger relationship with the children but didn’t know how to communicate because of language barrier. However I just got more and more comfortable with them with each passing day…. 😬 Can I adopt them………………
Suddenly i had this random desire, that I would love to sponsor/adopt a Burmese child. I have friends who are sponsoring children now at this age so it is not that scary. Of course not adopt now, but in future when I have a family. What’s weird and probably pleasantly satisfying was the fact that I began thinking, “If I were to adopt now, which kid would I adopt?” They said that apart from us, one American group also visited the children and they went there to do purely medical missions for children and adults. One of them even adopted a child back. Apart from us, no other foreign volunteer group has been there before. They don’t get a lot of visitors.
Anyway I was so happy to meet this 11 year old girl (in green shirt), who didn’t know English but apparently we got on very well. She was so eager to talk to me! Thankfully Amy was there to help me interpret. Couldn’t think of anything to say at first so I asked, “Do you have an English name??”
She shook her head.
“Do you want an English name?”
“Let me give you an English name, how about that?”
So I asked her what letter would she love her name to begin with and she said P, so named her Pris, and I also gave English names to a boy Hming Sang! He doesn’t have an English name so I named him Jon after he said he would like his name to start with the letter J.
I talked to Grace & Amy who knew a bit of English. Look at how they cling to my arms! Amy is 13 and Grace is 12. At first sight I thought they looked 10 or 11! I looked a lot taller & fatter when I was this age 😂
With Grace, the girl with the same name as me. Noticed her name tag since Day 1 but didn’t have the guts to go up & ask her or tell her my name is Grace too hahaha. I really wanted to befriend her though. Then just today morning I felt the urge to take a picture with her and amazingly, just today afternoon, they came and asked me for a picture!
Had a mass colouring session for the kids while waiting for the rain to stop. Some of the other kids were at the photo booth taking pictures in the meantime.
I’m amazed at how they are colouring with such intensity, concentration and enthusiasm. The interpreters didn’t approve of the colouring session at first and refused to translate for us, but we showed the children and they were all so eager. So they can’t do anything about it when we distributed the colouring papers hahaha
Helped Pris (below) with colouring too!
After we had debrief, then we headed for dinner at the usual place again. The Chinese cuisine restaurant 康乐福. I cant believe we have been going for consecutive nights already. WE FINALLY HAD OUR DUCK TODAY. It tasted very tender but my all time fav is still the 排骨 & the bitter gourd egg. Spent about 53,000 kyats on this 9 or 10 course meal, I forgot. That’s less than $5 per person in SGD! Even the waitresses in this chinese restaurant knows how to speak Chinese, it feels very heartening to hear a mother tongue in a foreign country.
Psst…Aunty Lucy & Aunty Kee lay have been calling me “tofu” this whole time! Oh gosh hahaha. They said how I always had a fair complexion and my skin looks very soft and tender. Me: Really?? It has been ages since someone called me tofu, beancurd, egg white or any nickname that is derived from my skin colour hahaha. The last time was kindergarten I think. I told Aunty Lucy & KeeLay that I inherited my skin colour from my dad. It was a good, light hearted chit chat session after a long day HAHAH.
Easter Sunday was the most touching day of all. Had to hold back my tears so many times during Easter service, especially during the skid that the children had put up and their performance. During devotion before we left, Aunty Lucy said that we should bless someone today according to their needs, and that we may say something edifying to them. I really hope I can make a difference in someone’s life today. I asked God to help me hear the silent cries of those who are really in need because I felt have never officially helped someone and I’d really love to contribute.
Little Moses so focused in prayer!! He’s only about 2 I think and yet knows how to behave like this? Goodness me this kid is extraordinary
I received 2 precious gifts today that I’ll never trade for anything else: this boy whom I’m close with called me over and with that, he took out the prettiest bracelet I had ever seen. Even more precious than gold and silver. It has blue and white beads that shone in the sun and, when worn, complements my complexion perfectly. He gave it to me. Didn’t think much of it at first because I solely thought he innocently just wanted me to have it as a thoughtful gift. He would check if I wore the bracelet at all times hahhaa. Laughed it off but it soon dawned upon me that he gave it to me because he wanted me to remember him always. The 2nd gift was a beautiful traditional Burmese necklace from Pastor Chhuana’s wife. It is equally as precious.
This is the church before service. They really treat church VERY SERIOUSLY. The kids disappeared for a while before church and we thought where they went. Turns out they went home to change and bathe! Some of them even wear suits and formal wear (the bigger boys), girls changed into dresses and tied their hair. They all appeared fresh faced and some boys even gel their hair. I think this is such a respectful attitude of how they treat church services, indeed it is something of worth to learn from.
Lucy kept praising their hospitality throughout. From the lunch they cooked for us, from the transport arranged….and to the gift she received during the service. “Throughout so many years of mission I never received a gift from the church before…never!” she emphasised. During lunch, the Burmese gave uncle Raymond & Uncle WhyLam the Burmese longyi (pronounced long-gee, it’s like some sarong that men wrap around their waist). It was after church service, if not they could wear it during the service hahah. Uncle WhyLam was even saying the day before that he wished he could wear a Longyi during service because he only had Bermudas and it’s a little disrespectful to wear that in their culture (all legs/thighs must be covered) Everyone was saying, “Okay then let’s get a longyi from the Burmese tomorrow,” but we didn’t even need to open our mouth, they just gave it to us. What a coincidence hahah.
There was a blackout during service. Had the feels so immediately took out pen & notebook to jot down my thoughts. Recounted it in Chinese so…if you’re fluent in Chinese good for you. Read and be blessed!!
Alright I promised I would recount Dina’s story right. Here it is heheheh.
Was talking to Zaw halfway when Rachel ran up to me. “Grace, Got one young boy there know how to speak Chinese leh!”
“What?! Where?” 我听了之后，大吃一惊。 在缅甸会讲英文的人已经寥寥无几，何况是中文呢？或许是这几天憋得太厉害，沟通时一只鸡一只鸭，烦死了。不知为何，我太渴望能在这个 foreign 国家讲一下我的母语，所以立即飞奔地跑过去找那位男孩。原来就是这位长得真帅的小男孩。我从第一天就有留意他了。
后来才从 Uncle why Lam 口中得知，他都由爷爷奶奶养大，近年来爷爷过世了，他身傍唯一亲人就只剩下奶奶…
After that he became my little interpreter, alongside me, translating all the foreign Burmese words into Chinese for me. He also became the interpreter for the children’s performance, translating English song lyrics to Burmese. It was damn last minute & they only appointed him as interpreter only a few hours before the performance. He has no script at all. Freaking impressed how he could straightaway impromptu on the spot while remaining so calm.
When I found out he knew Chinese, by then it was already day 3. I was so shocked when he opened his mouth and that fluent Chinese language just flowed out.
I think my biggest regret is not getting his Chinese name before he left. 过后我就死缠住我的 team, 一直追问着他的名字…..竟然没人知道。Not even my Burmese interpreters.
Took lots and lots of camp name lists from Uncle Why Lam. How am I supposed to search through all that names….what more that it is in a foreign language. In the end, the only piece of info I got was that his Burmese name is Dina….
右手旁的这两位男生在我们离开前还要求我和 rachel 留下我们的电邮以及脸书 （Facebook）。我们手机没电，无法直接加入为朋友，只好写在纸上。回到新加坡后，我和 Rachel 等了一整天都竟然没消息。急死了！他们在Facebook找不到我们，可能是有太多同名的人了。原来真的找不到。最后也是我们经过追问后，终于知道他们的 Burmese 名字，从中找到他们的 Facebook 账户。Dika (guy with the black cap) even tried to write his email on my palm HAHAHAHHA but I stopped him and took out a notebook instead. “So that we can send letters to each other,” he told Rachel. He seemed like a pretty funny guy so I teased them, “What letters? Love letters?!” It made him laugh really loud. hahaha.
As we were leaving, tears welled up in my eyes. I would exchange anything to be there and live those days all over again. To have my precious boys greet me good morning when our car pulled into the driveway. To have myself repeat “mingalaba” to my precious girls. I would repeat getting up at 5.30AM every morning; repeat going to those ridiculously dirty toilets; repeat playing in the annoying 40 degrees weather, or under the leaking roof that might just collapse anytime…if it means seeing my rascals again. Mingalardon – you’ve changed my life. I’ll be back very soon. 🏡💕
Aunty Lucy with the pastors and the kids! What is little Dina doing, hiding behind?? So thankful for my hosts, treating us like one of them and making us feel like home. We said our goodbyes, and returned to our lodging. There was a final debrief later and Rachel said, “Aunty Lucy’s final debrief always very long one leh! The last round, we briefed from 8pm to 11pm!” I was shocked hahah. Hearing that Aunty Lucy is actually well known for her long debriefs is a strange thing because the last mission trip, we had our final debrief at the airport and it was only 10mins long.
Anyways during the debrief, I answered saying that I’ve always been questioning my own intentions for doing missions. Not that I was unsure of what I’m doing, but more like I want to be sure of the meaning and purpose behind it, and be honest about my intention of going whether it is right or not. What started me doing missions was because I was inspired by this fellow blogger who volunteered in Cambodia. Then the reason why I was so eager to come on this trip was that my motivation was to make use of this opportunity to tour Yangon. Sadly that didn’t happen, but that does not mean that this is a wasted trip! It’s in fact one of the most fruitful. I know initially, that might be a wrong motivation to sign up for the mission trip, but just very thankful that at least I have the right mindset about serving during the trip.
I’m someone who really values peoples’ opinions about me a lot even though with all that bullcrap going around saying, “you should not care about what people think.” I think it’s a very worldly thing to say and a very “society cliche” thing to say because I believe as humans, we have to care about what other people say about us to some extent. Esp when you’re a Christian living up to your faith and all you have to ensure is to present a good living testimony. Although there are lots of people who came to me and said they respected me for what I do, I’ve received a lot of discouragements as well. And although they only make up the minority 10%, but those discouragements they weigh me down very, very easily. People still question my motivation of doing community service etc. In all honesty, I do it cos I thought it would be a great idea to travel & volunteer & serve at the same time.
As much as I had my fair share of respect, it is also inevitable to be looked down upon occasionally, as compared to other people who had prior first-world job experiences/is studying full time etc. “Why give your time to community work and the growth of underprivileged kids when you can be earning secure money in a first world country??” Heck, I even had someone question me if I would like it if I had a daughter that did what I was doing now. Why not? What is so wrong about it? I would rather want my daughter to live a fulfilled life in future than chase after materialistic gains and power. I would rather have my child grow up kind than to struggle in a competitive world. Of course I understand my friend’s intentions were probably right and for my own good, just like how we would always want our future child’s best interest at heart. I am not saying first world countries are bad but regardless of where we live in: in poverty or luxury, we have to get our issues together and our values right man.
“Don’t gain the world and lose your soul; wisdom is better than silver or gold.”
Yangon, Mingalardon, April 2017. Forever in my heart.
Honestly, I came with very different expectations. Just as we were leaving, this girl came up to me and kept kissing me on my cheeks repeatedly. So affectionate!!! I guess she really likes me. I can’t bear to leave too T.T
I’ll end with an encouragement to people who say, “I give only when I have the ability to”:
“Do you often feel like parched ground, unable to produce anything worthwhile? I do. When I am in need of refreshment, it isn’t easy to think of the needs of others. But I have found that if, instead of praying for my own comfort and satisfaction, I ask the Lord to enable me to give to others, an amazing thing often happens – I find my own needs wonderfully met. Refreshment comes in ways I would never have thought of, both for others, and then, incidentally, for myself.” —Elisabeth Elliot
Don’t wait. Really. Start now. If you don’t have money, give strength. If you don’t have strength, give time. If you don’t have time, give love.
“Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you.” —Mother Teresa
Elisabeth Elliot & Mother Teresa: my greatest inspiration.
Go home day
SQ food feature! I seriously love airplane food. Salmon & mashed potatoes with hot tea.
Wrote this on the flight back:
“Currently on a flight back from Yangon to Singapore, and I have been staring at this screen the whole time during the past one hour. Absolutely love the “travel” section of this entertainment device, with all the flight information and maps that are shown on it. Imagine all the places we could go. Looking at the map and looking at my airplane moving on the map just feels like I’m looking at a big picture, and we’re just a speck in the world.”
“As our airplane flew past Siam Reap and Phnom Penh, this surreal feeling surged all over my body. These two places in Cambodia has been one of my dream places to go ever. And dream places, no matter where it is, always feels out of reach right? But knowing that Yangon is even further away from Singapore than these two places gave me a very peculiar feeling…almost as if this urge to ask the airplane to come to a halt, to command the pilot to steer the plane towards the direction of Siam Reap and just put me down. As more and more familiar places appeared in the map, I got excited. Chiang mai, Chiang rai, Ho Chi Minh, Hanoi, DaNang…as we approached nearer and nearer, knowing that our airplane flew over these places is an exciting fact. (Even though I wasn’t at the window seat) dreamily I thought we could go to Ho Chi Minh, Hanoi, then go up to Laos, then don det….then Cambodia….visit the Angkor wat in Siam reap, then Phnom Penh….then Chiang rai, Chiang Mai…”
Now we’ve come to the end of the post….you can read about my previous mission trip to Myanmar HERE! It was in Pyay and we took a 6 hour bus ride from the city. I think comparing both mission trips, I was very different but good in it’s own way. I came on both trips with very different intentions. The first one was to try out missions and the experience was super refreshing since it’s my first time. More like an eye opener. The second time’s motivation was to tour Yangon & volunteer at the same time (altho that didn’t happen) but it was still very good! Both was very fruitful and enriching. However, if I had to choose one, it would definitely be this one! This time round the stay was longer and food was waaaay better HAHAHA. This time round we had more opportunities for interactions with the kids and I built much deeper connections. Which explains why the withdrawals are stronger this time round isn’t it hahhaa. The last trip was a hybrid between medical missions and kids’ ministry, while this time round is a concentrated children’s summer camp. So definitely, the kids and I grew more attached to each other.
Wrote this on the plane too: “Honestly, I came for this trip looking for some kind of answers. Just an overall direction in general…because I am graduating soon and is going through some transitional phase in life. I was hoping I can find a definite answer through a pilgrimage or even pondering about it over there but turns out I was occupied every single day!!! Kids totally drain your energy but after that it is just so worth it man. When I have free time at night, it’s just gtg crash anytime soon because by then Rachel & I would have been so tired. This trip has been so enriched with experiences, and I don’t know how to piece the pieces when I go back now.”
I thought about the “detachment” theory in Mitch Albom’s , and I realise I do need to do some detaching work, if not I’ll experience some serious withdrawals. Another quote from Eat Pray Love also spoke to me. It says, “Then miss him. Send him some love and light each time you miss him, then drop it.” It really comforted me that it is possible to send love and light to someone you don’t contact anymore. These theories of detachment and of sending love to a faraway place appeals so much to me because they can transcend both time and place. It could be sent via prayers, balloons…Amy, Grace, Moses, Dina & the rest of the kids will be in my heart no matter wherever I go. I think my biggest regret would be not asking for Dina’s chinese name because I do not know if I’ll ever see him again. I asked everyone in the team for his chinese name, and to my dismay, no one had a single clue what it is. I do not know if I have a chance to go to Mingalardon again, and even if I do, I don’t know if Dina will be there.
I guess there are really chapters in everyone’s life. We start some, we appear in some, and we end in some and whether we stay or not, doesn’t really matter.
What matters is that we’re part of the big picture.
A place full of warmth; a place that I will remember no matter wherever I go; a place that strengthened my faith in humanity.