End of Program at PDO school in Myanmar

Sophy Mesa- Report #2

“Last week of the program and a mix of feelings experienced. I have been teaching 5 hours to 6 hours per day every day from Monday to Friday for the last 4 weeks. When I cam back from my first short trip, I started helping in English Classes, grade 7 and grade 5. In Grade 7 the teacher was pretty much giving the classes and I was “assisting” him. It was not till 3-4 weeks later that I had a talk with their supervisor and explained to him that he couldn’t let me teach kids because “my English was too advance” for the grade 7 kids. Also, I mentioned him how once the teacher of this class punched/hit the table cause he got a bit furious/angry against the kids. After I mentioned him that, he was surprised to hear my story, and so I finally started to actually teach to grade 7.

On the other hand, I kept my dance classes, 1 hour in the morning and 1 hour in the afternoon. Another teacher asked me if I wanted to take over her singing class because she was going to travel soon and then she was off to he home country. So I accepted, and I started teaching singing/English vocabulary to the young teachers and monks.  At night, there is always an optional conversation class where any volunteer can come and join, and so I also started to join. We play games and listen to whoever come and join the class.

I have gained an amazing insight from the country as such, specially when travelling around, I have managed to visit Yangon, Bagan, Ngapali, Inle Lake, Monywa and a few other small villages and places around Mandalay. Every town is different from the next one. I was very impressed about the life in Inle Lake and the real Buddha forest in Monywa. Helping the kids at the school is very rewarding, however we do must have lots of patience and love to the kids and love to teaching. If we don’t possess or manage those qualities we may not be able to tolerate and manage the different circumstances that may arise.

Volunteering at PDO was a great experience, even though there are a few incidents that happened specially with other volunteers, but I believe is because some of the other volunteers are still teenagers, around 18yrs and so they still lack some respect. For instance, we have a small room where there is a fridge,  a kettle and a big pot to cook. Well, some days they keep the kettle and pot in their room, and even though we told them to please put it back in the kitchen, one day 7am the kettle was not there, and so I had to go upstairs and knock in their room to ask for the kettle. Similar incident happened a weekend, I believe some of them used my dance teaching room to watch movies, well the room for my dance class disappeared one weekend. I had to rush and ask for help to coordinators here, and they were thinking I was the one who lost the key. The key appeared again on Monday, magically.

I was also shocked to see young novices with cigarettes  in their hands and actually inviting me to join them. When I arrive I had no idea what to expect, now that I have to return, I have gained and received so many insights. Yes each day is very different from the previous one, and also it can get very tiring by just living and staying all the time inside the school. That’s why sometimes I prefer to have lunch/dinner outside PDO. Talking about the lunch, is always the same rice and potatoes. So I stopped having lunch at school because I could feel some nausea by just smelling the same food again. Is just not good either.

I’m lucky I didn’t get any major sickness, just once a body ache and some dizziness that with some paracetamol went away in the same day. Some other volunteers have got really sick that they had to go to hospital and take rest for days.

99% of the kids at PDO are extremely happy and smiling when they see me, just a few of them have got some attitude, and sadly those are the ones who behave and wear the western clothes all the time. I have also joined some of the Burmese traditional dance on the weekends and some of the guitar classes at night. They all welcomed me happily. Now its time to go to Australia to solve some pending issues.”

Sophy Mesa 2017

Buddhist Monastery School Teaching in Myanmar

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