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Burma / Myanmar: Service and Development Studies, Summer 2011


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Here we are. Stuck in Bangkok city for twelve hours. After having had a blast in Burma, we are experiencing a cultural shock here in Bangkok. Four days in Chiang Mai have gone so fast; the group has already departed to LA and we are waiting for our flight at 12.00 AM.

Eleven hours in a bus from Chiang Mai to Bangkok, then taxi to the airport. It's been sad to leave, we've had an amazing time. We would like to thank you all, you guys have been amazing and made this trip memorable.

Cars, shopping malls, street lights and noises, people everywhere, buildings and roads... Where has Burma's essence gone?

Suffering from cultural shock, we would also like to thank Tien and Saw Min Maw for showing us the city and taking us around. We're a little bit tired now but times like these will always remain in everyone's heart.

P.S. Katy, we haven't been asked and WE HAVE WRITTEN A YAK!!! Be proud of your Spanish girls!

-Eli and Berta.

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Burma / Myanmar: Service and Development Studies, Summer 2011

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Bangkok city

Eli Vila and Berta Argente,Burma / Myanmar: Service and Development Studies, Summer 2011

Description

Here we are. Stuck in Bangkok city for twelve hours. After having had a blast in Burma, we are experiencing a cultural shock here in Bangkok. Four days in Chiang Mai have gone so fast; the group has already departed to LA and we are waiting for our flight at 12.00 AM. Eleven hours in […]

Posted On

07/28/11

Author

Eli Vila and Berta Argente

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I cannot believe its already been almost four weeks! Right now I'm sitting on the floor in the Hong Kong airport with my wonderful instructor Katy who, with the determination of a tiger, asked me to write the last in-field yak of Dragons first Burma program! I have so many feelings that vary a lot about many things right now. Our time in Chiang Mai went so quickly; our schedule was crazy busy with guest speakers, ISP presentations (mine was on the government owned newspaper entitled The New Light of Myanmar), group meetings, and shopping.

There is no doubt that I will return to Burma and Thailand in the future. I have found that the more I learn about Burma the less I realize I know. I feel sad saying goodbye to everyone in the group, yet I'm excited to return home and apply my newfound knowledge during my first year of college at Indiana University. I should probably go and brush my teeth now...

-Alex

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Burma / Myanmar: Service and Development Studies, Summer 2011

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Coming Home

Alex Colley Hart,Burma / Myanmar: Service and Development Studies, Summer 2011

Description

I cannot believe its already been almost four weeks! Right now I’m sitting on the floor in the Hong Kong airport with my wonderful instructor Katy who, with the determination of a tiger, asked me to write the last in-field yak of Dragons first Burma program! I have so many feelings that vary a lot […]

Posted On

07/28/11

Author

Alex Colley Hart

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    [post_content] => As our trip seems to be coming to a close and as we prepare to leave Burma, I cannot help but reflect on our achievments and what needs to be accomplished in the near future. I would really like to feel accomplished by the end of this trip, not only with the work I did at my service sites or with the friends I have made, but also with the fact that all of the times of frustration and effort that occur in a Dragon's course, were worth it. I really love the fact that it is common on a Dragons trip to feel the most accomplished after an uncomfortable situation or an event that really challenges your limits. Whether its trekking in Shan state, staying with traditional ethnic families where communication can be so difficult, planting rice in a rice paddy, or even sitting in a collapsable bus chair on a 15 hour transit to Kalaw, one can always be physically and mentally tested on a Dragons trip. However, it is these moments of fear, frustration, discomfort, and wonder that are truly the most rewarding. Dont get me wrong, Dragons trips offer more than just discomfort. They offer the unique opportunity to see foreign places in amazing and thought provoking ways. Abe Lincoln once said, "it is not the years in your life that matter, but the life in your years." Today, after reflecting on my month in Burma, where everyday was new and exciting and full of life, I can look to that saying and sincerly feel accomplished.
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Burma / Myanmar: Service and Development Studies, Summer 2011

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Dragons leaving Burma

Alexander Weisman,Burma / Myanmar: Service and Development Studies, Summer 2011

Description

As our trip seems to be coming to a close and as we prepare to leave Burma, I cannot help but reflect on our achievments and what needs to be accomplished in the near future. I would really like to feel accomplished by the end of this trip, not only with the work I did […]

Posted On

07/24/11

Author

Alexander Weisman

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Only 4 days left till I'm home. 4 days left till I'm not stared at by everyone else around me for being the only white person in a restaurant. 4 days left until the fact that I learned the Burmese alphabet won't matter. 4 days left until getting a taxi won't consist of a mob of men surrounding me, shouting different prices to get me to choose the lowest one. 4 days left until my breakfast won't be chicken dumplings and pinneapple bought off the street. 4 days left until I won't be woken up at 4 a.m. by chanting monks or calls to prayer. 4 days left until the internet connection to type up this post won't take hours and hours to load (note: I'm in Thailand right now, and the internet is so incredibly fast that all of us are frantically typing, unable to believe this is happening right now.). 4 days left until I'll be back in America with my experience here in Burma behind me and more than a month of summer left until the next landmark portion of my life.

We've just left Burma. It hasn't hit me yet that the trip is almost over. That I am still in shock over the elevator that I rode in the other day to the top of the tallest tower in Yangon to a fancier and overpriced restaurant that overlooked all of the city is not surprising considering my less than luxury living situation these past couple of weeks. That elevator ride, however, which wouldn't have been surprising or even out of the ordinary in America, was completely surpassed by my arrival in Chiang Mai, where there is a Dairy Queen, high speed internet, and both Hertz and Avis to rent cars from. As Katy would say, now luxury is my panic zone- I'm unable to understand that there are new cars and high speed internet and so many white people around, not really experiencing Thailand. Burma has something special about it, untainted by tourism or even development in some regions, and I haven't fully realized it even now, once I have left it. The difficulties I went through there, ordering tea, booking bus tickets, exchanging money with an Indian man in a corner of a market place, are all worth it, and that lets me say that I have actually experienced Burma. Been in Burma. Felt Burma in a way that not a lot of other white person who stay at the Strand Hotel can feel.

I don't mean to be patronizing or condescending and saying that only I, along with my nine other cohorts on this trip, have truly experienced Burma the way it needs to be experienced. I only mention the difference between tourism and travel because it is a theme in the way people go around the world today. I could have gone to any country in the world this summer. I was strongly considering attending cooking school in Paris for a month, but other considerations prevented this desire from being realized. I could have gone on vacation with my family to Vail or a lake where we have a house in Michigan, but I didn't. I chose to go to Burma, with little to no knowledge of what was awaiting me there. I didn't stay in fancy hotels... most of ours cost $6 or under per person per night. I didn't eat in fancy restaurants, but rather tea shops with no menu and usually only one option- Shan noodles. I didn't fly from city to city in an airplane but in a bus where one seat was meant for two people. But why did I do this? What is the purpose of being in my learning zone? What was it all for?

When you strip yourself of all of the material posessions or outside influences you use to define yourself, that's when you can find who you truly are. When the only thing that makes you you isn't your clothes, your house, your grades, your college education, your financial status, your friends, or your family, you see what truly lies inside. I spent a lot of this past year trying to define myself. Trying to attach words and concepts to the person that I am. I've always been self-assured, not always confident, but self-assured, but that doesn't mean I knew exactly who I was. But going into this trip without anything, only my quick-dry pants, my toothbrush, and my journal, along with the many tameins I've acquired along the way, has made me realize who I truly am. Talking to my instructors and the insight that they've provided about me that I haven't seen so firsthand before has given me a more defined sense of who I am. So you're probably wondering who that person is and why this person went to Burma?

Initially, I had no definite purpose in coming here. But I see that my purpose was to really do something that scared me. Getting on that plane from LAX, I was quaking with nerves. But now I'm wondering what I was nervous about. I came to Burma to find myself, and although that sounds cliched and cheesy, it's definitely been a journey of self-definition. Seeing everything about this country and lowering my comfort zone to literally the bare minimum has made me see things in a new light. The stress and pressure that I put on myself before to be perfect and get good grades and do everything that made me appealing to college is less prevalent than before because none of those things are important in this environment. What's important is family and passion. I see that now. But to answer that earlier question, I don't want to tell you who I am. Not because I can't define it but because I know for myself, and that's the only thing that matters.

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Burma / Myanmar: Service and Development Studies, Summer 2011

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4 Days

Hanna Wiegers,Burma / Myanmar: Service and Development Studies, Summer 2011

Description

Only 4 days left till I’m home. 4 days left till I’m not stared at by everyone else around me for being the only white person in a restaurant. 4 days left until the fact that I learned the Burmese alphabet won’t matter. 4 days left until getting a taxi won’t consist of a mob […]

Posted On

07/24/11

Author

Hanna Wiegers

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    [post_content] => 	First and foremost, I'd like to apologize to my mother for not posting more Yaks while we were in Burma; the internet was freakishly slow, and I must confess my patience ran low when thinking out, loading and posting an entire Yak was so much slower than a quick facebook visit that was usually enough to express my thoughts. We are all in Thailand for the final leg of our trip now, and now I feel like I have the time and wifi speed to reflect in a depth greater than 450 characters. I must say my final days of service were great even if they were so preciously short; I served at a great elementary school in Yangon by helping their teachers with lessons and generally keeping the kids entertained ( I feel terrible saying this, but it's so much fun in sports when you're almost a full meter taller than everyone else...). Now, as I sit here drinking coke in a well air conditioned, lightning fast internet cafe waiting to have dinner at a restaurant with a menu in english, I can't help but feel relief and sadness at the same time; relief because everything will become easier as we go forward, and sadness because we're nearly finished. In four days, it will be a long time before I have the chance again to dance with HIV positive kids in Mon state, meet one of the world's last shamen while hiking in SHan state, or even just casually walk into a tea shop for Burmese tea.
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Burma / Myanmar: Service and Development Studies, Summer 2011

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An Apology, Rest, and Reflection

Christian Jepsen,Burma / Myanmar: Service and Development Studies, Summer 2011

Description

First and foremost, I’d like to apologize to my mother for not posting more Yaks while we were in Burma; the internet was freakishly slow, and I must confess my patience ran low when thinking out, loading and posting an entire Yak was so much slower than a quick facebook visit that was usually enough […]

Posted On

07/24/11

Author

Christian Jepsen

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We are leaving Burma. What have we learned? We've gained skills we never thought we would accomplish, we've learned to take off our shoes when you get into a Buddhist temple, we've learned that life is not as simple as we think it is.

By getting lost in the city, by taking a trishaw and barganing for the price, by asking someone what that is or where that place is, by having to deal with 10 hour bus and train rides, by cycling around the ancient ruins of pagodas in a remote city 4000 km away from your place, by trekking along the Shan State mountains, by sleeping on the ground in a first floor wood-made house with five water buffalos under your bed making creepy noises at night, by listening to all these insects and frogs that sing at night, by being woken up at 4 AM by the monk chanting, by practising meditation and not eating after noon, by meeting all these amazing Burmese students after finding out that they have the same fears and hopes as you have, by being amazed by people's smiles always ready to help and welcome you with a cup of tea.

By doing all this... What have we learned?

I guess it's really hard to explain with my own words what's all this about. You have to live it. You have to experience it. It's not something you can talk about, because it's the combination of all five senses mixed together with some kind of special topping on it.

Smells that come and go, things that you might not see ever again, emotions that flow and go. Are we ready?

Our plane is waiting.

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Burma / Myanmar: Service and Development Studies, Summer 2011

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Leaving Burma

Eli Vila,Burma / Myanmar: Service and Development Studies, Summer 2011

Description

We are leaving Burma. What have we learned? We’ve gained skills we never thought we would accomplish, we’ve learned to take off our shoes when you get into a Buddhist temple, we’ve learned that life is not as simple as we think it is. By getting lost in the city, by taking a trishaw and […]

Posted On

07/24/11

Author

Eli Vila

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The other day my group and I were asked to write a poem that summarized different parts of Burma. The idea surprised me...after all, how is it possible to describe such a country in only a few sentences? But I put pen to paper nonetheless and wrote down small but significant aspects that were dear to my hear.

Burma.

The word rings in the air,

and hangs for a moment,

still in its propensity.

The people's smiles will warm your heart

Their round and kind faces

blissfully unaware ofmissed opportunities

yetrevellingnonetheless in their deserved happiness

I love weaving through the cluttered streets in the dim light of early morning

as sleepy vendors begin putting up their stalls

and the first cars start to appear on the roads.

It smells damp here, a foggy aroma that fills your nostrils and awakens your senses

but it's a dampness mixed with the tangible taste of overripe mangos,

sizzling fried foods, and boiled corn.

So many sensations, alongisde the engulfing and complete heat

that surrounds you and tucks you in as if you were a child

Burma.

Entirely satisfying in its beautiful and unreined simplicity.

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Burma / Myanmar: Service and Development Studies, Summer 2011

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Burma Poem

Emily Carney,Burma / Myanmar: Service and Development Studies, Summer 2011

Description

The other day my group and I were asked to write a poem that summarized different parts of Burma. The idea surprised me…after all, how is it possible to describe such a country in only a few sentences? But I put pen to paper nonetheless and wrote down small but significant aspects that were dear […]

Posted On

07/24/11

Author

Emily Carney

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Dear friends and family following the last days of our journey:

With tears in our eyes, a beautiful candle ceremony presented by Hanna, CJ, and Saw Min Maw, and a solo morning at Burma's most famous Pagoda -- the Shwedagon-- the first ever Dragons Myanmar/Burma trip departed our host-country to dive more deeply into certain issues here in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Through service and guest-speakers, we hope to widen our perspective and hear divergent views on questions raised in our Focus of Inquiry, particularly Governance and Ethnic Minority Issues. Much of what we see and hear will not be appropriate to post to the yak board, and students are being extremely respectful with this challenging request; for the safety of everyone we meet and work with, we must be particularly sensitive in our communication.

Big thanks to Josh Morris and Mike Paller for the perfect first night's dinner-- our students are going to sleep with a lot to think about, both on the side of being responsible for their own experience despite external circumstances (jmo) and more insight into working on the 'inside' or 'outside' in a changing climate (mike d.).

Good night!

-the ever proud I-Team

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Burma / Myanmar: Service and Development Studies, Summer 2011

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Sawadee Kha

Instructor Team,Burma / Myanmar: Service and Development Studies, Summer 2011

Description

Dear friends and family following the last days of our journey: With tears in our eyes, a beautiful candle ceremony presented by Hanna, CJ, and Saw Min Maw, and a solo morning at Burma’s most famous Pagoda — the Shwedagon– the first ever Dragons Myanmar/Burma trip departed our host-country to dive more deeply into certain […]

Posted On

07/24/11

Author

Instructor Team

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We just arrived in Chiang Mai, its strange to think I won't see Burma again (at least for now). Our last days inside the country were spent in Yangon, traveling to our individual service sites in the morning and talking to politically outspoken people in the evenings.

I did my service at a rather unexpected place, A school for the blind, after having two sites fall through at the last minute. Working with the blind turned out to be diffifcult, not because of their or my unwillingness, but because of my ignorance of effective teaching methods for those lacking sight. My Burmese "counterpart," Thu-Htet, was equally baffled. The first day was spent in frustration, trying to tell stories and teach english without the use of visual aids. Communication was much more limited when the children cannot understand the words I said, or the gestures I made than with people elsewhere, who can at least interpret facial expressions and hand motions. The second and third days we came up with a much more "hands-on" approach to teaching: modeling clay. We passed out the clay, then I would say an english word and Thu-Htet would explain to them that they were to shape the clay according to the word and repeat it. Then we would quiz them by saying the word in english and watching what they made.

The evenings were much different from my mornings. They were also sometimes a challenge to communicate, although in a much different way. Our first guest speaker from a politically vocal organization gave us a brief history of the country's government with his own commentary heavily interspersed. His views were often unclear to me, simply because he assumed a certain level of knowledge in our group that wasn't present. He used acronyms and code words for people that, coupled with his heavy accent, made his talk difficult to follow. The next morning we spoke with an official from the US embassy, who presented a limited, but politically correct view of the United States' stance on Burma. He seemed closed minded at times, and made me worried for our countries ability to help the Burmese people. The next day however, I heard another take on our country's ability to do good here, but by modification of sanctions rather than active political action. I have to cut this Yak short because of time restraints, but those few discussions taught me more about the politcal climate in Burma than almost any other thing ive seen.

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Burma / Myanmar: Service and Development Studies, Summer 2011

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School for the Blind and many Discussions

Izaak Oliphant,Burma / Myanmar: Service and Development Studies, Summer 2011

Description

We just arrived in Chiang Mai, its strange to think I won’t see Burma again (at least for now). Our last days inside the country were spent in Yangon, traveling to our individual service sites in the morning and talking to politically outspoken people in the evenings. I did my service at a rather unexpected […]

Posted On

07/24/11

Author

Izaak Oliphant

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The day started with an amazing breakfast at the hotel. Toast, eggs, fruit, everything we needed to start the day with plenty of energy. At 9 am, Tim, a burmese music teacher I met at my service site, picked me up at the hotel. The main reason why I was not taking the bus as the rest of the students is that yesterday, after taking a taxi and a bus, the trishaw driver took me to seven other schools before finally getting to my service site. Even though getting lost was kind of fun, I was an hour late so Tim kindly offered me to go on the school truck the next day. On the way, we picked up and australian 21 year old that is teaching english at a school in the outskirts of the city. He asked us to join his class and so we did. I introduced myself to the students, who are young people with economic difficulties, and I was asked to give them an encouraging message. It was a magic moment.

After this unexpected visit, I arrived to my service site, Blossom Nursery. Blossom is a kindergarden school for children between 3 and 5 whose families cannot afford regular school. I played games, sang songs and took pictures with all the kids and teachers. It was crazy, the kids started screaming and laughing every time they saw their faces on the small screen. We had lunch in a tea shop while all the kids were spread all over the classroom sleeping or at least trying to rest. Two hours later, it was time to say goodbye. Smiles, random burmese words and hand gestures was everything I used to thank them. However, I don't think that was enough to show them how grateful I felt and how meaningful this experience had been to me. Finally, I just wanted to say how much I admire all the staff of the school for giving this oportunity to every single kid that unfortunately hasn't been as lucky as they should have been. Thanks again Blossom Nursery.

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Burma / Myanmar: Service and Development Studies, Summer 2011

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Blossom Nursery

Berta Argente,Burma / Myanmar: Service and Development Studies, Summer 2011

Description

The day started with an amazing breakfast at the hotel. Toast, eggs, fruit, everything we needed to start the day with plenty of energy. At 9 am, Tim, a burmese music teacher I met at my service site, picked me up at the hotel. The main reason why I was not taking the bus as […]

Posted On

07/22/11

Author

Berta Argente

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