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Burma: Service and Development Studies, Summer 2012


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In the Buddhist tradition water represents growth, change and transition. In this light it only seemed fitting that the skies rained down on Yangon for our entire last day in the country. Beginning with a physical separation from the familiar and comfortable this month has been a rite of passage for all those involved – student group and I-team alike. Parting ways at the Yangon airport was tremendously emotional for us. After a month of such deep sharing and learning it is painful to be separated from our Dragons family - there are so many conversations that still need to be had, hugs that need to shared, new friends to be made and remote lands to be explored! We hope that each of you will come back one day. As you each make your way home know that your Myanmar family loves you, remembers you and will welcome you always!

Travel safe and be happy!

Much love,

Ko Htike and Kara

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Burma: Service and Development Studies, Summer 2012

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I woke up this morning feeling like..

Ko Htike and Kara,Burma: Service and Development Studies, Summer 2012

Description

In the Buddhist tradition water represents growth, change and transition. In this light it only seemed fitting that the skies rained down on Yangon for our entire last day in the country. Beginning with a physical separation from the familiar and comfortable this month has been a rite of passage for all those involved – […]

Posted On

07/27/12

Author

Ko Htike and Kara

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Caked in mud and faces streaked with sweat and dirt, we arrived at the place where we were to spend the night. Nearly the moment we caught sight of the tiny mountain monestary, the group headed straight for the showers, which was in acutality more of a water trough. Dripping wet from our cold bucket showers, we trudged back to the monestary, feet halfway in shoes and dripping longyi hanging from our arms. After a speedy change into a dry longyi, we headed to dinner in the adjacent pagoda. Candles lighting the table, the scene looked like one stolen out of a storybook. Sitting down to dinner, I found that lentils and rice became some of the most delicious comfort food I had ever tasted. After finishing the meal, one of our instructors suggested we do an activity called “the milling.” Exhausted from the 6 and a half hour trek that turned into more of a 10 hour gaunlet through the mud, many of us were less than enthusiastic about the idea. However, mustering up all the energy gained from the meal, the sore joints of the group bent to the upright position.

The activity begain as a milling about in a small cirlce (hence the name) and we were all put into the mindset of being busy with our own schedules, our own plans, our own lives. Suddenly, we were instructed to stop and look the person that had stopped nearest us in the eyes. We were told to consider that this person had their own plans, schedules, and life. To someone in the world, perhaps to multiple people, this person was the most important person in the world. Looking into my partner’s eyes, I realized I was looking into a collection of stories, a book not yet finished and not yet fully started. As one of my instructors wisely said “We all have stories. Together we make up this story, the story of a Dragons trip to Myanmar, yet we individually all have our own stories.” In some crazy twist of fate, we had all wound up in that place together, at that very moment.

When I walk through the hallways at school, I see hundreds of other people passing by me. Sometimes we even lock eyes, and even if just for a brief moment, without stopping, we continue on our way to wherever our momentary destination is. I never considered that when I walk down the halls, each person I see, every single one has their own collection of stories that make up his or her life. Each person has had experiences, positive and negative, that have molded them like clay into the person that I brush past in just a momentary crossing. Whether they play a different part in my story than I in thier’s, our lives and stories have become intertwined, a mingling and mixing of fates, to create these encounters I experience on a daily basis.

Looking into my partner’s eyes, I realized that everyone I have ever met, whether I even remember their existance, has played a part in my story; whether large or small, they have entered my life and shaped me into the person I am today. We all have experiences and together, they conglomerate into this strange mixture that makes up a life. Just like in any story I have ever read, seen, or heard, some characters are a necessary part without which the story could not continue, and others play minor roles that are often forgotten as the story continues.

Again, looking into my partners eyes for those last brief moments, I considered their story and what twists and turns must have occured to bring them into mine. I considered the other stories they played a part in.

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Burma: Service and Development Studies, Summer 2012

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My Story in Myanmar

Zoe Ettinger,Burma: Service and Development Studies, Summer 2012

Description

Caked in mud and faces streaked with sweat and dirt, we arrived at the place where we were to spend the night. Nearly the moment we caught sight of the tiny mountain monestary, the group headed straight for the showers, which was in acutality more of a water trough. Dripping wet from our cold bucket […]

Posted On

07/19/12

Author

Zoe Ettinger

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On July 14th, we set out on a trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake, a trek which winds through the shan hills, over mountain passes, across acres of rice paddies, and into various minority villages. To say that I was excited is a painfully vast understatement. Let me try to explain. I’ve harbored this love for wilderness since before I could really even comprehend emotion. As a kid, I would sneak out into my back yard at night just to roam the surrounding woods and stare up at the stars. When my high school american history class read and discussed Walden, the connection I had always felt made even more sense. Over the past few summers, I’ve been on countless trail runs, mountain bikes, and rafting trips around Atlanta. Henry David Thoreau, Chris McCandless, and Eustace Conway currently all rank as some of my biggest heroes.

There’s one catch though: I rarely take on adventures such in a group. In the past, I’ve always assumed that its better to be alone; that’s the way Conway does it, the way McCandless did it, and the way Thoreau did it. I’ve always belived that on my own, the experience is much more rich, much more pure, and much more cathartic. It’s always made sense that the relationship between man and nature works in the same way as the relationship between man and god operates: individually. On top of that, the risk of keeping 15 people strung together while climbing rocky cliffs and crossing precarious bamboo bridges seems to offer more burden than benefit.

So when we set out from Golden Lily Guest House towards the distant, mist shrouded hills of Shan State, I was simultaneously on top of the world and a little bit unsure. The first two days passed well enough as we enjoyed little to no rain and climbed various summits, wobbled along rickety, foot wide trails between paddy fields, and trekked from town to town; though we moved a little slowly, we enjoyed one another’s company along with unbelievable views. Then, after our second homestay, as we prepared to depart for a monastery 6 hours away, the sky dropped. Literally. It started raining that morning then continued on and off all day long. After climbing a near vertical mountain of rock for the first 45 minutes, we assumed that the worst was over; however, as we continued down the trail, we began to realize how mud-caked our shoes were and how slippery eah step was becoming. That slow realization became a painful reality when Nat turtled on a slight hill, going from a standing position to his back in an instant. For the rest of the day, we found ourselves slowly sliding and mud skating down the path, through the rain. At times we would have to hold hands and help one another out of deep puddles, across mud slicked bridges, and up mud drenched hills. We finally arrived at the monastery at 7:30, over 3 hours after our estimated arrival.

I can’t say that I powered through that day to show my true grit by making the trek pain free, mud free without any help or that I proved my self sufficiency. I wound up on my ass a couple times, slid into my fair share of puddles, and almost lost my right shoe to an especially stubborn rice field. What I can say is this: I wouldn’t have reached the monastery that day without the consistent help of my new friends. Instead, I probably would’ve wound up sleeping with a herd of tender water buffalo in some weedy field in the middle of shan state. This group has taught me that power comes from unity, that the support of friends can get you through the murkiest of times, and that in order to go fast, sometimes you have to take it slow.

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Burma: Service and Development Studies, Summer 2012

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Going slow to go fast

Katie Fee,Burma: Service and Development Studies, Summer 2012

Description

On July 14th, we set out on a trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake, a trek which winds through the shan hills, over mountain passes, across acres of rice paddies, and into various minority villages. To say that I was excited is a painfully vast understatement. Let me try to explain. I’ve harbored this love […]

Posted On

07/19/12

Author

Katie Fee

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    [post_content] => It has been 3 weeks already time passed quickly, enough so that i am not sure what day it is today. It has been 3 weeks already so many memories made, some of shock some of excitement and some seem to fade. It has been 3 weeks already of having met new people and forming bonds, regardless of any language barrier which was washed away like a couple of small ponds. It has been 3 weeks already and I know that I won't forget, the moment when a burmese kid asked to take a picture with me or when i was on the muddy trek. It has been 3 weeks already and I do not know what i shall seek, as it is my last week.
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Burma: Service and Development Studies, Summer 2012

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last week

nathaniel aron,Burma: Service and Development Studies, Summer 2012

Description

It has been 3 weeks already time passed quickly, enough so that i am not sure what day it is today. It has been 3 weeks already so many memories made, some of shock some of excitement and some seem to fade. It has been 3 weeks already of having met new people and forming […]

Posted On

07/19/12

Author

nathaniel aron

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    [post_content] => I start this yak yak fully aware of the fact that words are not going to be able to capture or even present a facsimile of the experience I am about to relate. When I was younger, around the ages of 2 and 3 I had a series of hideous ear infections and complications that had two unfortunate ultimate effects. First, my Eustachian tubes were seriously damaged (for those of you who don’t know, these tubes regulate your internal sense of balance). Second, till the age of six I had difficulty pronouncing syllables, making some around me think I was, at the very least, partially deaf.  The first problem was overcome by rigorous childhood sessions on the balance beam and the second by a speech therapist. 	The reason I write this is because of something that happened during my second Homestay that radically altered the entire experience. The first night staying with my family in Shan state wasn’t meaningless, i was just exhausted from trekking all day with an injured knee and fell asleep more or less immediately. The second night, however I was able to make something that felt like a real connection with my host family.  	It started small, my younger brother came home from school and I whipped out a Buddhist Pamphlet that had been given to me earlier, that was conveniently in both Myanmar and English. I got my younger brother to read the Myanmar and I would then read the text in English. Soon the entire family was gathered around, and I was helping the younger members on the family work on their English pronunciation skills. The fricatives were very difficult for them but I was able to help them along by guiding them along, as I had been guided 15 years earlier, by building some humor into what can be a difficult and frustrating experience. For the rest of my life I will have fond memories of dancing along with Myanmar siblings to the syllable song. For those interested it goes, “st, st, st, st, f, f, f, f , f, k, k , k, t, t, t, with a few er’s and l’s thrown in. It was in this moment I learned the depth of empowering others in struggles that you have already battled. Even reading what I written previously I both disheartened and gladdened that words can’t provide the depth of that experience. Disheartened, because I wish to share the intensity of the moment. Gladdened, because though I wish to share, part of me is sincerely happy that experience belongs to just me.  
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Burma: Service and Development Studies, Summer 2012

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Great Holy Homestay Batman

Grey Martin-Buhrdorf,Burma: Service and Development Studies, Summer 2012

Description

I start this yak yak fully aware of the fact that words are not going to be able to capture or even present a facsimile of the experience I am about to relate. When I was younger, around the ages of 2 and 3 I had a series of hideous ear infections and complications that […]

Posted On

07/19/12

Author

Grey Martin-Buhrdorf

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With a self-imposed wake-up at 5:15, four ladies wrestled their bikes

out of their storage and pedaled to a beautiful pagoda looking out

across the Irrawaddy River. We felt quite Bagan savvy. But then, 30

minutes before we had to arrive at the hotel for our 7 o’clock

check-in, one of our bikes wouldn’t unlock. When “we’ve got plenty of

time” turned into “someone should bike back and get the I-team”; we

were more than a little worried. Thankfully, we damsels in distress

were saved. In our struggle with the lock, we had attracted quite a

bit of attention. Soon we had about five Burmese men attempting to

force the bike open. Then, suddenly, success!

What stuck in my mind about this event was not the help we received or

even the stress of it, but how completely normal it seemed to find

help so easily. In Myanmar, just a slightly confused expression can

place yourself under the guardianship of some shopkeeper to help guide

you wherever you need to go. At home, just a kind hello can make my

day. Here, kindness is as assumed as rice at a meal. This helpfulness

is certainly one of the aspects that makes this country so special,

and is not hard to get used to. There are other aspects, however, that

are much more difficult to swallow. Namely, the sense of politeness

that is imbedded in almost all interaction. Now, this isn’t a type of

politeness that I am used to at home. Keeping elbows off the table,

making sure we don’t have food all over our face: this is polite

behavior that I can handle. But here, polite behavior consists of

abstaining from eating in front of guests and, in attempt to be

proper, being very shy. Meaning, once the level of interaction turns

from helpfulness to casual conversation, your newly acquired friend

will probably shut up like a clam. This conflicting balance of

openness is just one of many ironies of Myanmar. And, while they may

confuse and even frustrate us, irony is part of unique flavor of this

country, which can pull you in and refuse to let go.

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Burma: Service and Development Studies, Summer 2012

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Irony of Kindness

Abby Hester,Burma: Service and Development Studies, Summer 2012

Description

With a self-imposed wake-up at 5:15, four ladies wrestled their bikes out of their storage and pedaled to a beautiful pagoda looking out across the Irrawaddy River. We felt quite Bagan savvy. But then, 30 minutes before we had to arrive at the hotel for our 7 o’clock check-in, one of our bikes wouldn’t unlock. […]

Posted On

07/13/12

Author

Abby Hester

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About three months ago, I was accepted into a program called Burma/Myanmar: Service and Development. Initially, I thought that development was in reference to the economic, social, and political advancements in a country. I believed service to mean aiding others in need. After coming to Myanmar, my opinion on the meaning of these two words has shifted. Development, for me, means not only that of a country, but in a Dragons program it gains the meaning of personal development. No one can prepare someone who has lived in the western world their entire life for the culture shock that is to ensue after traveling and immersing yourself in the lives of the local people. I have seen temples hundreds of years old, so ancient that they dwarf the famous colonial buildings of the United States. I’ve meditated and met with the head monk of a monastery, a man whose wisdom is truly unfathomable. I’ve talked with a local man who fought in World War 2 during the Japanese occupation. I haven’t even reached the midpoint of my trip yet and I already feel changed. Having all these experiences has given me a different outlook not only on the lives of others but also my own life. So many people here survive without half of the comforts we are privileged enough to enjoy. Coming to Myanmar has really made me realize how fortunate I am. Many challenges I face in my life seem insignificant compared to that of, for example, a woman who had to put herself through school when her parents could not afford even 4 dollars per month. To me, the word service has also come with a different connotation. Service applies not only to aiding those in need, but also service that aids those in need while also bringing the knowledge that you have gained home. The lessons I have learned here are ones that I will always remember. I have learned that students here can often not even afford books for school. It is not enough to only consider this problem yourself, but also to make others aware of the issue. Many people around the world are ignorant of the trials and tribulations of many Burmese children. I knew that coming on this Dragons trip would provide new experiences, but I did not expect to gain such a drastically new perspective with the trip not even over yet.

[post_title] => Reflection [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => reflection-3 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2012-07-13 00:00:00 [post_modified_gmt] => 1970-01-01 00:00:00 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://yakyak.chandigarhsoftware.com/?p=40713 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [categories] => Array ( [0] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 305 [name] => Burma: Service and Development Studies, Summer 2012 [slug] => burma-service-and-development-studies-summer-2012 [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 305 [taxonomy] => category [description] => [parent] => 252 [count] => 44 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 15.1 [cat_ID] => 305 [category_count] => 44 [category_description] => [cat_name] => Burma: Service and Development Studies, Summer 2012 [category_nicename] => burma-service-and-development-studies-summer-2012 [category_parent] => 252 [link] => https://my.wheretherebedragons.com/category/summer-2012/burma-service-and-development-studies-summer-2012/ ) ) [category_links] => Burma: Service and Development Studies, Summer 2012 )

Burma: Service and Development Studies, Summer 2012

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Reflection

Zoe Ettinger,Burma: Service and Development Studies, Summer 2012

Description

About three months ago, I was accepted into a program called Burma/Myanmar: Service and Development. Initially, I thought that development was in reference to the economic, social, and political advancements in a country. I believed service to mean aiding others in need. After coming to Myanmar, my opinion on the meaning of these two words […]

Posted On

07/13/12

Author

Zoe Ettinger

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    [post_content] => The air of Myanmar is much different than anything I’ve experienced
before. The change is not from the humidity or heat, nor in the
foreign smells and load noises that waft through out guest room
windows. The change lies in the heart of Myanmar, in Buddhism.
For the people of Myanmar, religion is not a thing to focus on one day
of the week or when you feel the need to call on a higher power.
Buddhism is a way of life, and plays an essential role for the people
every day. It is hard to find a room not occupied by a picture or
statue of Buddha, or find a town not populated with ancient pagodas,
stupas, and temples. The spirituality in Myanmar is palpable. The holy
and sacred feeling that one might experience when going to church in
the states envelopes every day life in here. Children go to school
here hand in hand with little monks and nuns. People lounge in the
shade of temples to escape the midday heat or monsoon rain. People
with nothing to give find ways to give back, because it will earn them
credit in the next life. To see a monk in the street is to bow your
head, to enter a holy place is to take off your shoes, and to see a
Buddha image is to get on your knees and bow three times, with you
head, feet, and hands touching the ground.
Buddhism can be seen and felt throughout Myanmar, not only through it
historical buildings and traditions, but through the kindness,
humbleness, and hospitality of its people. We had the honor of being
hosted in a monastery with one of the most honorable and esteemed
monks in Sagaing. During our last night there, we returned after a
mediation session in a mountain monastery to find both the local
police and immigration force waiting for us. In Myanmar, it is illegal
for a foreigner to stay in an unlicensed building, which includes
people’s homes. Because we were at the monastery for a religious
retreat, and because of the reputation of the head monk, we had
believed that we would face no problems sleeping on the floor of the
monastery for three nights. The government felt differently however,
and wanted us to leave the monastery that night. After an hour of tea
and negotiations, instructors Ko Htike and Stew were ready to give in
and leave, despite us having nowhere to go and no way to get there.
The head monk was going to give a sermon that night in front of
hundreds of people. When he saw our predicament, he missed his sermon
and sat for hours with the officers to allow us to stay at his
monastery for one more night. Already, he had shown us incredible
kindness and hospitality, but this final step went above and beyond
anything he was expected to do. For us it was unthinkable kindness.
For him, it was the only thing to do.
The air in Myanmar is overflowing with spirituality. You can see it,
feel it, and sense it in every bit of life. Budhism plays an essential
role for the people in Myanmar, and I feel blessed to have the
opportunity to share it with them. [post_title] => Buddhism in Myanmar [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => buddhism-in-myanmar [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2012-07-13 00:00:00 [post_modified_gmt] => 1970-01-01 00:00:00 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://yakyak.chandigarhsoftware.com/?p=40721 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [categories] => Array ( [0] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 305 [name] => Burma: Service and Development Studies, Summer 2012 [slug] => burma-service-and-development-studies-summer-2012 [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 305 [taxonomy] => category [description] => [parent] => 252 [count] => 44 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 15.1 [cat_ID] => 305 [category_count] => 44 [category_description] => [cat_name] => Burma: Service and Development Studies, Summer 2012 [category_nicename] => burma-service-and-development-studies-summer-2012 [category_parent] => 252 [link] => https://my.wheretherebedragons.com/category/summer-2012/burma-service-and-development-studies-summer-2012/ ) ) [category_links] => Burma: Service and Development Studies, Summer 2012 )

Burma: Service and Development Studies, Summer 2012

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Buddhism in Myanmar

Marley Forest,Burma: Service and Development Studies, Summer 2012

Description

The air of Myanmar is much different than anything I’ve experienced before. The change is not from the humidity or heat, nor in the foreign smells and load noises that waft through out guest room windows. The change lies in the heart of Myanmar, in Buddhism. For the people of Myanmar, religion is not a […]

Posted On

07/13/12

Author

Marley Forest

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    [post_date] => 2012-07-13 00:00:00
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    [post_content] => 

Thu Zar.

This is my Burmese name. Given to me by my new friend, Sain Le. She is 19 years old and attending University in Mandalay. Never had she ever ventured past the confined walls of her house, school and the path connecting the two. Never will she ever see her mother again, who passed two years prior to our meeting. Never will she ever stop thanking her friend, Sam, for making her come to school with him. Never will I ever forget Sain Le, the girl who's story portrays the power to friendship, courage and strength.

Ngu War.

I do not want this name. The reason? There is no reason in the name, or maybe, too much reason. It is the name I am supposed to have based on astrological signs, birthday, and so forth. But, this name is missing something-love and compassion. It was given to me by a group of people I had hardly spoken to, and they did not know me and I do not know them. This name was given to me out of kindness of course, but was derived from a needle thin, sliver of skin deep glance at me.

Sain Le gave me a name thsat I have the honor of accepting despite the fact that is does not abide by any laws. Love and comapssion exceed all knowledge of what is known. All we can do is graciously accept all that is given and give all that can be accepted.

Hello, my name is Thu Zar. It means "Like an Angel." It was given to me by an angel.

[post_title] => Like an Angel [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => like-an-angel [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2012-07-13 00:00:00 [post_modified_gmt] => 1970-01-01 00:00:00 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://yakyak.chandigarhsoftware.com/?p=40730 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [categories] => Array ( [0] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 305 [name] => Burma: Service and Development Studies, Summer 2012 [slug] => burma-service-and-development-studies-summer-2012 [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 305 [taxonomy] => category [description] => [parent] => 252 [count] => 44 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 15.1 [cat_ID] => 305 [category_count] => 44 [category_description] => [cat_name] => Burma: Service and Development Studies, Summer 2012 [category_nicename] => burma-service-and-development-studies-summer-2012 [category_parent] => 252 [link] => https://my.wheretherebedragons.com/category/summer-2012/burma-service-and-development-studies-summer-2012/ ) ) [category_links] => Burma: Service and Development Studies, Summer 2012 )

Burma: Service and Development Studies, Summer 2012

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Like an Angel

Alex Lovaas,Burma: Service and Development Studies, Summer 2012

Description

Thu Zar. This is my Burmese name. Given to me by my new friend, Sain Le. She is 19 years old and attending University in Mandalay. Never had she ever ventured past the confined walls of her house, school and the path connecting the two. Never will she ever see her mother again, who passed […]

Posted On

07/13/12

Author

Alex Lovaas

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