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When I was young, watching National Geography was an exciting family time for me and my brothers, we would see wild animals in the African Savannah, roaming free and wild like the film the Lion King. Thus, I always harbour this dream to go to the safari and watch wild animals in their wilderness.

When I got the chance to go to Kenya for a working trip, of course I was extremely excited to finally be able to fulfill my childhood dream to go to the Safari. We went to the Great Rift Valley, a vast Savannah geography. Our tour guide called Mr Lee, a Korean that felt in love with the laid back nature of Kenya 7 years ago and became a tour operator as a living. He brought us to the Crescent Island, a huge Savannah land home for thousands of vegetarian animals (which means no lions or any dangerous animals). Though what’s interesting about this Island is, it is one the few place where tourists can do safari nature walk, rather than be inside a caged car.

We took a boat ride to Crescent Island, along the way there were birds of all shape and sizes taking a rest on the water plants, while up on the sky there were huge eagles scouting for their next meal. Out of the sudden, one of our team cried:”oh, Hippo!” A group of Hippo taking a quiet dip in the lake, they were huge, with large blunt teeth showing while they yawned. There were also water goats on the shallow side of the lake, their heads turned attentively to us, looking curiously while munching the water plants.

The feel of the Savannah was obvious the moment we reached Crescent Island. Our Kenyan guide, Mr. Simon, explained to us the history of the place. It is actually a private farm where wild animal are free to venture and breed. The view was spectacular as we reached the peak of the Island’s hill, from afar, I saw rows and rows of soft dry grass, wild animals running around freely like little black dots, beyond was the huge Naivasha Lake against the backdrop of the distant mountains of the Great Rift Valley.

The cactus plants were enormous, in fact they were huge like big trunks of trees. The island were never short of wild animals, at one side we saw a group Gazelles sprinting effortlessly that the rhythm created was harmonious. On another side, we saw a wild beast carelessly minding his own business at the lake shore. While walking, our team were in shocked to see a huge carcass of a snake, our guide told us the snake was killed by Hyenas the night before. The scene of the snake were horrible, bloody.

The most amazing moment for me was seeing giraffes walking tall and gracefully, I was in awe. There’s something calming about watching at giraffes, they are the most elegant creature that I ever seen. Everything they do seems gentle, like the time is clocked backward. As we reach to the plain flat land, more and more animals appeared. There were group of zebras looking at us curiously as if we were aliens from Mars, a herd of wild beasts running around from one plains to another, while at another site were an amusing scene of two Gnu fighting with each other to win over the heart of the female Gnu (as told by the guide), and nearby the shore were two brown horses which was formerly owned by the Island’s owner.

The cooling weather were a perfect balance to the piercing hot sun. We rested a while under a tree with its branches lie low forming a shady canopy. We were told the area that we sat were used as one of the location for the famed ”Out of Africa” movie. The movie won scores of Oscar awards. After rest, we resume walking and got back to the boat where we rode back to our vehicle. We stopped by a country club to catch for late lunch. The architecture had a very colonial-built, exuberated elegance in the cold harsh Savannah. It reminded me of a forgotten era where Europeans would spend their Summer at the Safari while resting for a cup of good English tea at the club.

At the end of the Safari tour, although we were exhausted, we had a great time. I learned a lot about wild animals and the importance of preserving their wild habitats.

The Great Rift Valley…. The word itself sounds very exotic, like a far away land in a world where mystical enchantments exist. Oh perhaps, it sounds similar to one of the journey in Lord of the Rings. Nevertheless, my quest to the Great Rift Valley is nonetheless a spiritual discovery of a people that I usually would hear from the television and magazines.

The Global Peace Festival (GPF) team journeyed deep into the Great Rift Valley to learn an interesting initiative by the GPF Kenya. The initiative was a partnership with several key groups in eradicating tribal conflict that had hit Molo, a peaceful country side, home to tribes which included the Kikuyu, Maasai, Gussi, Luhya, etc. The worst bloody conflict was during the 2007 Election violence which saw young people from different tribes killing each other in the name of hatred and fear.

Along the road, we saw wide open space of the Great Rift Valley that went on and on without end, absolutely mystical and beautiful. There were huge serene lakes and picturesque long-dead volcano crater from afar. Once a while, there were baboons, zebras and donkeys passing by on each sides of the road. I also saw African children looking curiously at us (as we are the only foreigners), small shops quietly doing their daily business, and endless rows of golden corns/millets, giving a pleasant rustic view of rural Africa.

The initiative by GPF Kenya focuses on Character Education. It is not the typical Character Education that one would normally associate with. It doesn’t have a curriculum nor a syllabus. It does not contain any rigid evaluation. What’s interesting about the Character Education is the sustainability of  long term cooperation between all community. The core idea is to change the mindset of young people by getting all community to participate.

To better understand the whole concept of the Peace Process in Molo, we went to the Rift Valley Provincial Headquarters in Nakuru. The military police had set up a team of Peace Cops, their role is more of a peace maker rather than carrying guns catching criminals. The unique aspect about Peace Cops is they are supposed to mingle and gain the trust of the community. This will enable them to get first hand tip off on potential tribal conflict. Besides, they also do frequent patrol in hard-to-reach rural areas, joining forces with tribal leaders. The Peace Cops initiative has been very successful as the police forces presented themselves as a trust worthy ally in the peace process.

Back to the Character Education, as we drove to the school which had suffered badly during the 2007 Election Violence, we learned ever since the school implemented the Character Education and having committed alliances between police forces, government, GPF and the community, there hasn’t been any conflict happened. The success of the Character Education is due to – cooperation between the Police, the government, community, GPF, school and young people. The Peace Cops represent the committed efforts by the police; the government has been fully supportive of the initiative and provided funds to the community; the community has been very involved by having frequent meeting with all tribes; the school authorities play a vital role in creating a safe education environment; young people from all tribes has been organizing workshops and youth activities ; while GPF has been behind the scene in assisting the schools and young people by providing resources, training and guidance.

The never ending rows and rows of greenery hills were the homes of the people of Molo. The weather was cooling and welcoming, with rich agricultural cultivations of potatoes, corns, millets, and vegetations. Once a while donkeys carrying goods and humans would pass by our vehicle. On the other side of the view, I saw cows freely roamed the grasses chewing their meal, houses made of mud and dry plants stood rustically, while housewives busy doing their back-breaking chores. The humble setting of the rural scene made me realized the people of Molo are very lucky to have the vast nature as their home. One of the my friend who tagged along told he was sorry with the poverty there, but I do not feel the people there were ‘poor’. In a materialistic sense, they may not own shining cars, big mansions, high-paying jobs, and designer clothes, but they have everything they need – fresh air, beautiful nature, rich agricultural land, mud houses as shelter (it doesn’t cost a thing!) and a close-knitted community. One thing lacked were the access to clean water and good education.

Arriving the school – Mutate Primary School, we were greeted by young school kids, wearing their humble clothing and wide beautiful smiles. The kids were extremely adorable, to the extend I would perhaps do an Angelina Jolie and adopt one of them as my child! I was shocked to see the humble school, considering this is the best in Molo. It is everything I had saw in the TV. It broke my heart to see how worn-out their school books were, and the school principal told us they do not have the funds to build more classrooms, thus the kids have to cram together in that small classroom. Yet, they seemed to be extremely excited, singing and smiling joyfully, I did not see a hint of sadness in their faces. I can understand why, the nature is their classroom, and with this much freedom, they thrived. Mind you, I was shocked again when I saw the school work of these kids, considering they are mere 13 years old with limited education resources, I didn’t expect to see such impeccable English and Maths performances in their work books. They even spoke to us in good English that made me felt very proud of them.

The scar of the 2007 Election Violence had left a deep wound to the Mutate Primary School, all the teachers left Molo as part of the school was burnt down with only the school principal stayed behind. Nevertheless, his will to educate the kids motivated him to re-build back the school. He got funds from the Chandaria Foundation (the richest man in Kenya) to re-build the classroom, and recruited several new teachers. In cooperation with GPF, the school and community form a committee represented by all tribes in Molo, where they have frequent meeting on peace-building. On the other hand, the school also introduced Character Education in the classroom, not as a subject, but through frequent dialogue/discuaasion, sports activities (especially football), and youth workshops. More over, the school did a smart move by making sure the kids from all tribes are schooled together. The reality is, segregation is the main cause of conflict. Segregation causes people to lack understanding and empathy with people of another tribe, subsequently disregard those people as lesser beings to justify the killings.

On the way back, we dropped by at a small town in Molo. We met the representatives of the youth initiative who were the driving force in educating other young people. They organize numerous programs, such as sports and youth development workshops. As we spoke to the young leaders, they expressed hope and enthusiasm in the achievement of the programs. The Football Competition managed to bring together young people from all tribes for the first time, while the youth workshops taught young people about basic life skills to earn money/do business, and empower them to be peace makers. Youth empowerment is important because the lacked of economic development may add fuel for hatred and tribalism to slip in, as land issues has always been the source of conflict. According to the youth, the workshops has helped to improve the livelihood and interaction of the people in Molo. Nowadays, peace is in the mind of everyone here, the scar of conflict is too deep for a repeat.

Sustainability in peace-building is the aim of Global Peace Festival. Mean while, it is the role of the Molo people to maintain peace and stability through education and cooperation by all community. There’s a saying “If there’s peace in Molo, there’s peace in Kenya”. Politicians may be blamed for inciting tribal hatred and civil conflict, but it is vital for tribal leaders, schools, the police forces, NGOs, the government, the community and young people to rise against such tribal mentality and foresee that we are One Human Family after all.

I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to travel to Kenya for the Global Peace Festival (GPF), the first for me to the African continent. Thanks to the international news, preconditioned ideas ran though my mind about Africa: the civil war, the tribal clashes, the extreme drought and poverty, the safari animals, apartheid, and AIDS. Though some of it are true, but it doesn’t really paint the colourful, vibrant and peaceful nature of the Africans or the Kenyans.

It was an eye opener for me as I stepped out from the Nairobi Airport, the weather was really cooling, despite the fact that Kenya is situated at the Equator. The next day, which was the opening for the Global Peace Convention, me and the GPF media team quickly start working on the our assignment. There are photographers, video persons and me, the interviewer/reporter for the event.

The 2-day Global Peace Convention (18-19 November) was officiated by heavy weight politicians. Namely by Mr. Mwai Kibaki, the President of Kenya; Mr. Raila Odinga, the Prime Minister of Kenya; Mr. Kalonzo Musyoka, the Vice President of Kenya; Representative Minister of Nigeria (forgot his name). For those who are not aware of the Kenyan politics, they are formed by a coalition government, due to a bloody 2007 Election violence between the Mr. Kibaki’s party and Mr. Odinga’s opposition side. Former UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan was credited for hasten the peace process between both sides. A Coalition government is something that is interesting because it allowed better political stability and lesser internal strife where the demographic population are diverse and divided. Yet, one thing apparent for Kenya is its commitment to strive for democracy and peace, although being surrounded by volatile neighbours.

The Global Peace Convention (GPC) was also attended by Dr. Hyun Jin Moon, the Chairman of Global Peace Festival Foundation. I think by now most are very much aware of the tarnished image of the Unification Church, initiated by his father, Rev. Sun Myung Moon. The Moonies as they were called, was considered a popular cult 2-3 decades ago. Due to the internal split between Dr. Hyun Jin Moon and his siblings in 2008, he left the movement for good and the rest is history. One thing interesting about the nature of GPF is it’s non-sectarian, non-partisan and inclusive nature. It’s vision of “One Family Under God” may sound religious, but the orientation is very much universal. The three core pillars – Strengthening Families, Interfaith Cooperation and Community Service – are meant to build better bridges among societies and communities. Nevertheless, being new to the scene, it had faced countless challenges and setbacks in proving its legitimacy in the Non-profits world.

Another thing strikes me profoundly is it’s dedicated commitment on world peace – specifically on religious and ethnic cooperation. That is what Global Peace Convention was all about, bridging gap between world leaders, creating the space for dialogue and cooperation.

The topics discussed in GPC were wide and diverse, ranging from genocide, peace process, interfaith cooperation, to youth development, entrepreneurship, Character Education, etc. During the Opening Speech of a minister from Nigeria, he really raved up the audience with cheers as he spoke seriously against bad governance, corruption and politicizing tribal conflicts (tribalism is a big problem in Africa). Suddenly the quiet (and rather mundane hall) mood changed, young Kenyans were clapping and shouting slogans of peace, giving hope that Kenya will rise against the stereotype of what an African ought to be. I was in awe.

Seeing the numerous workshops, forum and talks during the GPC, I came into a conclusion, there’s a bright hope for Kenyans. One of the sub-event was the Youth Summit, which was attended by the Vice President of Kenya. He was also very much interested with how young Kenyans can bring about change to Kenya. I was personally inspired, most Politicians in Malaysia failed to see the power of young people in effecting social change, that’s a sad truth.

My job assigned was on media and communication. I got the chance to interview and speak to a lot of prominent leaders in their own field. Among the leaders that I admire deeply were the Hon. Jose De Venecia, Former Speaker of the House of Representatives in the Philippines. He was very much a humble gentleman, truly believed in the vision carried out by Dr. Hyun Jin Moon. The same goes to Dr. Manu Chandaria, the richest man in Kenya and prominent Businessman, and Sir James Mancham, Founding President of Seychelles. Their experienced yet humble personality truly reflect the charisma of a true leader. I personally believe Dr. Hyun Jin Moon has aligned himself with the right leaders, leaders that shared his vision and embraced the the idea that we all come from one human family. It is important for people to understand that, scientifically speaking, human beings are all originated from Africa as written in our DNA, through the millions of years of migration by our ancestors, that is how we came to be so diverse and different. Yet, it is important for us to celebrate diversity through unity and equality, by seeing the similarity in our human values and principles.

On the other hand, I do understand for a lot of people in the world, religion and spirituality is an important fundamental in their daily lives. Realizing that religion has and always been a source of conflict between different faiths, by using the metaphor of god in the vision “One Family Under God”, people of different sects are able to see beyond the external complexity of faith, instead embrace the idea that we all come from one human family, while God is placed as the centre of the human spirit. This is why I believe the United Nation has failed to see, the UN has became a dry vehicle for politicians to merely ‘fix the problem’ without understanding the complexity of human behavior. By understanding the nature of religion in playing a role within the human spirituality, instead of sweeping aside the importance of uniting these moderate religious leaders, they should be given a role in influencing their community to end the exiting religious/civil conflict.

Nevertheless, I do acknowledge Global Peace Festival is still very new, and with the word ‘festival’, it might perhaps gave a rather inaccurate idea of what GPF is all about. Of course, celebrating peace is a symbolic aspect of GPF, especially in promoting peace among the younger crowd. Yet, the efforts of GPF are beyond just events, GPF is branching out from the comfort zone of feel-good events, reaching out to grassroots communities, working on issue-based projects, working together with young people, organizing interfaith dialogues, and so on. Using a multi-pronged approach, GPF has formed dedicated partnership with world leaders, young people, grass root communities and the government in realizing the dream of building “One Family Under God”.

I left the Global Peace Festival in Kenya feeling rejuvenated. There’s still a lot to be done though. Peace is not a destiny, it is a journey of discovery.

TCG

Today I had a good buffet breakfast at the hotel café. I always have a thing with breakfast buffet, I really enjoy all the different variety of food for breakfast. They even have roti canai and tosai, which is ironic coz I never thought Myanmar people eat Indian food (actually they DO eat Indian food). I talk to a Chinese Malaysian businessman working in Myanmar. He told me he doing import of seafood from Myanmar.

At 9am, we had a meeting with all the other ASEAN committee. There were other volunteers from Singapore, Myanmar, Thailand and Brunei. The other ASEAN volunteer countries (Philippines, Indonesia and Cambodia) that didn’t manage to come are due to the slowness of the visa approval. I feel really bad for my fellow other volunteers… Anyway, the meeting between the TCG (Tripatite Core Group) was nice, I met Philip Danao, our ASEAN project coordinator, he was so cool and friendly, joking with us along the way. TCG is a newly formed humanitarian crisis task force, collaboration between ASEAN, UN and the government of Myanmar. This model will be implemented to other crisis prone areas in SEA, as in this group the decision making is equally participated by the government, ASEAN and UN. The TCG is unique because the focus is based on bottom up approach in line with ASEAN’s goal of ‘Bringing ASEAN Closer to the people’, where volunteers will be exposed to the culture and social aspects of the local Burmese in order to be more understanding of their overall plights. Thus, increase the trust and efficiency of humanitarian efforts, especially in regards with countries like Myanmar, where the Junta regime has huge amount of distrust towards UN. Involving ASEAN is a good way to be the bridge to break the ice. I am very fortunate to be one of the first ASEAN volunteers chosen for TCG.

Ironically, after 1 year of Cyclone Nargis hit the areas, there’s still so much recovery that needed to be done, as ASEAN volunteers, our job is to assess, plan and monitor the different needs of the rural villagers. The extend of damages caused by the Cyclone Nargis was enormous, significant long term impact on people’s livelihoods including the destruction of homes, fishing boats and critical infrastructures (roads, jetties, electricity, water and fuel supplies and sanitation system), contamination of water and food supplies, especially in the Delta region, known as the rice bowl of Myanmar. I’ll be stationed to Labutta Township, a very remote area near the Irrawaddy River and the Andaman Sea, 12 hours journey from Yangoon by land or 6 hours by speed boat. According to Philip and other experienced volunteers that had been to Labutta, the huge obstacles will be getting the rural people to speak out about their livelihood needs and getting permission from the local Junta Military and village elders. Interestingly, a lot of Myanmar people don’t know the existence of ASEAN, they assume ASEAN is an NGO, this could be due to the inclusion of Myanmar was very recent in 1997 and the government has limited access to sources and news outside the country. I can’t even access to yahoo and other websites in their internet café. Thank god facebook is allowed.

In Labutta, I’ll be the reporting officer, providing monthly reports to the ASEAN central hub in Yangoon. My team consists of me, Azman from Brunei (Project Officer), Zarli and Colin from Myanmar (Assistant Reporting officers), and Snow from Myanmar too (Finance Officer). I am very fortunate coz we have great chemistry together and were never short of a good laugh. In Labutta, we will also be working together with an implementing agency called ACTED, which is cool, coz the volunteers come from all over the world. For my salary, I’ll be given 300,000 kyat and USD300, I think that’s a handsome pay for a volunteer like me 😉

I feel really happy working with the ASEAN committee, the Myanmar people are very accommodating and very interesting characters. Among the international volunteers, there’s the very serious straight talker but kind Colleen from Singapore, shy but very sweet Ting from Thailand, married but very funny Azman from Brunei, quiet but easy going Zai from Brunei too, and NEP hater but chocolate lover Mangala from Malaysia. For Myanmar volunteers in my team in Labutta, there’s the very sweet and pretty Snow, very hyperactive and enthusiastic Colin, very insightful and smart Zarli and very quite but is a reporter for the newspaper ‘The Myamar Times’ Aung Kyi. For our lovely central hub project committee, we have Philip Danao from the Philippines; he just loves to crack jokes and makes us laugh, and his deep dimples makes him always looked so cheerful, no matter how stressful he is. We all call him the drinking/smoking/ party animal; then we have Surya from Indonesia, so friendly, kind and soft spoken, he’s so caring towards the volunteers, never say no when we need his help and advice; finally there’s Agid from Indonesia, he’s sooo serious and sometimes a bit too focused with his work, but he’s very detailed in explaining to us our task in the fields, and when he smiles, he looked so sweet… I met my boss for the Labutta hub, Sok from Cambodia, he was so nice and it made me feel that I can’t wait to get dirty in the remote Labutta, coz all the people I am going to work with are so positive and as enthusiastic as me! 😉

jewish synagogue taken care by an muslim man, that's what i call 'MYANMAR TRULY ASIA'!

*jewish synagogue taken care by an muslim man, that’s what i call MYANMAR TRULY ASIA!

Going to Myanmar is like going back to Malaysia 50 year back, exactly what I would usually see in my favourite P. Ramlee’s old movies and black & white photos of the ‘good old days’ of my grandparents. Everything is so laid back, underdeveloped and culturally rich. The men and women still wear their sarong (they call it lungi), like nobody’s business, you see them wear it everywhere, from the airport to the shopping mall too! gosh, seriously reminded me of my grandma and grandpa… You see, there’s something very melancholy and sentimental about Myanmar (apart from it political dictatorship), I feel like stepping back in time: the 70s and 80s looking old cars, the lush greenery in the city of Yangoon, and the warm hospitality of the Myanmar people.

I still remember before coming to Myanmar, my fellow friends and family were so worried and gave a lot of warnings that the place is soo dangerous and soo underdeveloped and unstable… When I went to the Myanmar Embassy in Ampang Hilir, that didn’t help either, my imagination about Myanmar was getting more and more obscured. The visa counter was very rundown; it looked more like a rural kampung area in the East Coast. I saw Myanmar people squatting and sitting around the embassy, probably just waiting to get their visa extended, and a humble-looking kedai kopi, filled with Myanmar people. But one thing I noticed was, the people were so varied in their looks, resembled exactly like the Chinese, Malay, Indian and dan lain-lain ‘race’ in Malaysia.

I was boarding the MAI (Myanmar Airways International). The ASEAN project coordinator, Phillip Danao issued the ticket right after I got my visa done. I was packing like mad, since I didn’t expect to leave Malaysia so soon. After almost 2 hours of on the flight, I finally arrived at the Yangoon International Airport. The first indication that I am in Myanmar was the huge number of people wearing traditional sarong and kebaya-looking blouses and also robe-wearing monks. I met my other ASEAN volunteer friend from Malaysia, Mangala, she’s also like me, was very taken aback by the tranquility, warmness and greenery of Myanmar, totally unlike what we were told back in Malaysia.

We are staying at the Summit Park View Hotel, managed by a Singaporean. Our place is near to embassies, Ministries buildings, the famous golden temple of Shwedagon. The first few words that we learned was – je zu ther ma lay (thank you) and, mangelaba (hello). You know, I felt very uncomfortable that most of the locals here when they know we are Malaysians, they would say ‘oh, good Malaysia, rich country!’…. It’s so misleading coz our government is screwing up the ordinary Malaysian lives that it sooo never rich, our lives are still as difficult as them, maybe only a bit more modernized.

The first day in Myanmar, we decided to explore around the area. We went to the nearest shopping area at City Mart and Dagon Centre. A Indian looking Myanmar asked if we wanted to take a taxi, he charged us 1000 jet (Myanmar Currency) 100 US Dollar = 1080 jet. The taxi driver was actually an Indian Muslim, his ancestors came from India as merchants. At the Star Mart, we saw lots of the Myanmar ladies wear something like bedak sejuk on their faces. It’s actually teneka, a natural form of sun screen protection derived from a tree. There were a lot of buses, some packed with people, so unlike Malaysia. In Malaysia, the public transport is really bad; the ordinary Malaysians have to wait for a long time just to get a bus. There weren’t any beggars or homeless people on the street, but there were a lot of police securities inside the shopping area. I was quite surprised, I believed Myanmar is way better than Indonesia and Philippines, I didn’t feel insecure or unsafe being a female traveler. In fact, from what I heard Myanmar is famed for having one of the lowest tourist crime rates.

The food in Myanmar is rather interesting though. It was not bad at all, in fact quite similar to our local Malaysian food. The bihun that we eat is called vercimilli in Myanmar, it’s quite a popular dish there. One thing I realized that there’s frequent power failures in Myanmar; when we were shopping at the mart, there were a sudden blackout for a few second, but the people were very calm and non-complaining about this. I remember in Malaysia, once there was a huge power failure resulting the whole of Peninsular Malaysia with no electricity for a few hours, Malaysian were complaining like mad and shouting. Here, the country is very poor that it’s a luxury to even have electricity. Thus, the power failure is seen as only minor imperfection.

At nite, we went to the Shwedagon Pagoda, just a couple of walks from our hotel. It’s so amazing looking at the Pagoda, so huge and golden, and the top of the pagoda was filled with lots of diamonds shining brightly in the dark night sky, especially as we saw through the telescope. If the diamond filled pagoda was situated in Malaysia, I think in no time it would definitely be looted and stolen, no surprise, typical ugly Malaysians. We befriended a monk, named osman (that’s what we heard he said), who could be the only one there that can speak English. It was rather hard for us to mingle with the locals, as the only English they knew was YES and NO. The monk was so kind, he explained all the detailed information about the pagoda. Without him, we might be at lost coz all the writings were in Myanmar language. He said the pagoda has a historical root over 2500 years. It is plated with real gold, amounted with 60,000 of gold leaves. It has 4200 of precious stones on the surface of the ‘umbrella’, such as ruby, sapphire, diamonds, emerald, etc. On the very top of the pagoda is a huge 1800 carat diamond…wow!!! The monk, even show us a secret where we can see the huge 1800 diamond shining in red, yellow and green colour by standing in different spots, amazing!

The locals come to the pagoda for praying and worshipping, there’s a hint of Hinduism as we saw several small temple around the pagoda resembled the Balinese and Thai and even Chinese architecture. Around the pagoda were small miniature statures of Buddha and different animals, it is supposed to resemble the day of birth of a person. I was born in 26 June 1985, so my day of birth was on Wednesday, which is symbolized by the elephant. So for self-well being, the monk told me I can pour water to the Buddha and Elephant statures. Quite a unique experience for me.. I can say the Myanmar people are very devoted to Theravada Buddhism as they would meditate and pray for a long time in front of the pagoda, the similarity does reminded me of the performing of Haji in Mekah. Around the pagoda too were candles and candles lighted and flowers were decorated around many of the Buddha statures.
The first day of Myanmar, I felt very invigorating, it’s an irony that there’s so many fallacy and myth about Myanmar, when actually there’s more to the book than its cover. I believe the term ‘truly Asia’ in our tourism advertisement should be reserved for Myanmar, coz Myanmar truly preserved the South East Asia cultural heritage, its multiculturalism and not to forget the people here are so nice and kind, reminded me exact what was used to be good about Malaysia that is increasingly gone now…

Myanmar...

OMG, I’M GOING TO MYANMAR!!!!!!!!!! AS AN INTERNATIONAL VOLUNTEER FOR THE ASEAN HUMANITARIAN TASK FORCE!!!!! I’M GOIN BY 15TH SEPTEMBER AND SO THANK GOD, AFTER ALL THE BITTER HEART BREAK FOR THE PAST 2 MONTHS, I FINALLY FEEL ALIVE AGAIN!!!!!!!!

this are the stuff they emailed me…
You belong to the 16 successful candidates out of 105 applications from 10 countries who passed the administrative and thematic selection processes. It is indeed significant that you are selected to undertake this Volunteer assignment under this innovative ASEAN Volunteers’ programme. The evaluation process was competitive. Final selections were made considering the candidates demonstrated motivation for community development, understanding on humanitarian assistance, relevant community/volunteer experience, cultural sensitivity, proportional geographic and gender distributions.

Key Terms and Conditions:
– You would be assigned to the most vulnerable villages in the Cyclone Nargis severely affected areas.
– It would be an initial three-month period, extension depends on project activities and funds availability.
– It is expected that a Volunteer would accomplish the tasks required for three months/assigned project duration. If the Volunteer decides to leave before the project-end date, the project reserves the right not to cover his/her Rountrip Airfare.
– ONE Roundtrip Airfare would be provided (to-from-to ASEAN member states only)
– A basic allowance of 300USD would be provided at the end of each month. A daily per diem would be given at a local rate, which would be explained in detail upon your arrival to Myanmar.
– Details of your duty station and project involvement would be discussed upon your arrival to Myanmar.
– Basic health insurance is provided during the duration of your project mission.
– Modest accommodation is covered by the respective project duty stations.

COOL HUH?! 😉

gorgeous love lavender

Timely Rain Drops

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bitter butter beer ginger~

dusty attic

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