Reports from the Field

Volunteering at PDO in Myanmar – First Month

Sophy Mesa- Report #1

“I found out about the project after some internet research on google. Before arriving to Myanmar, I was visiting some family in Colombia and Ecuador. So I had to plan before leaving Australia. I got the proper vaccinations in Melbourne and in Ecuador. My main aim for the project is to understand more the traditions and understand more about the different types of human beings who decide to undertake the path of Buddhism in Myanmar.

I arrived at PDO on the 26th September, originally it was planned for the 24th but due to unforeseeable events with the flights, it got cancelled and I had to stay at last minute at Hong Kong airport and booked tickets on my own from Hon Kong to Yangon. Stayed the night at Yangon, and then from Yangon to Mandalay next day.
I was given a quick tour of where some of the classes were held, but they lacked to explain to me the location of the different houses and some other buildings.

As soon as I arrived, I was informed that the school was on holidays, and it was my decision to either travel for the next week or to teach. I decided to teach and so they asked me if I would like to do Dancing since I have a proper teaching and dancing certificate and experience. I started teaching Dance 4 hours per day for around 2 weeks in the holiday school period time. It was very busy schedule, and I was not expecting so much participation, energy and positive attitude from the students.

I agreed with Monica that instead of going holidays right away, that was better for me to take a few days off just before the school holidays finishes, cause then later I was not going to have the time to travel around Myanmar. So I went 5 days travelling to Bagan and then to Ngapali beach.

My accommodation is ok, I was happy enough to have an aircon and no one else to share the room. However, after a few days I realized that because the room is not painted, there is some dirty stuff falling from the roof into the bed and floor. Pretty much everything gets dirty easily and there tends to be some type of black cobwebs on the corners and roof, so every few days I have to be cleaning them off with a broom.

After I came back from the 5 days holiday I met the volunteers which were on holiday too. They informed me of how everything works inside and I understood more about the different houses and kids leaving at PDO. I also was surprised to find out that only me and another volunteer receive breakfast and dinner as part of the program.

The surroundings around the school is pretty hectic, heavy traffic, street markets and the famous and culturally known Mandalay Hill and Palace makes the area quite powerful and authentic. The location of the ‘Tea Shop’ where we have breakfast, is very convenient and their prices are very affordable.

I am very well looked for, but sometimes it gets too much. As an example: dinner is supposed to be at 7pm, and if I am 1minute late, I receive a called asking: where are you?. And so similar thing happens with breakfast. I understand they worry about my security, but sometimes there is no needs.

I get along with the kids very well, and I think the coordinators were not expecting a Dance class so powerful and exhausting as it is mine. I am happy I am making them smile, and they learn different type of dances each day, with technique and proper stretch and mobility exercises.”

Sophy Mesa 2017

Buddhist Monastery School Teaching in Myanmar

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