Fly to: Yangon, Burma
Internal Transfer: 4 flights to Thandwe, Heho, Mandalay & Bagan
Visa required: Yes if British
Currency:Myanmar Kyat (MMK)
Time Zone:+6hrs30mins GMT
Day 17, 22/02/11: Burma - The Golden Shadow
Up at 5:40 to see Paula off; I feel somewhat strange saying goodbye to someone I really care for before time. Mind you I anticipate it as more of a 'catch you later me dear'.
Today we were to find ourselves at Bagan's version of a golden Shwedagon type pagoda. The atmosphere again was intense but not in a spiritual way.
This place was heaving with people trying to sell things, there were women with rent-a-photo-babies; people were pulling, grabbing trying to get my attention, 'come look at my shop...' Clearly they don't realise just how much I dislike being touched in that way.
To be honest I felt uncomfortable here; having just witnessed the beautiful, raw, unglamorous, stone temples of Bagan this felt contrived. The illustrious gold just didn't work for me in this environment, if anything it left me cold.
Armed with our offerings we made our way to a local nunnery; wow!
From stepping foot over the threshold this place blew me away. The serenity, the peace, the warmth that radiated from the face of each and every pink robed beauty was immense. So pure and just to stand here in their presence brought up so many emotions; perhaps the most significant was my overwhelming sense of pride. Stood here, with these nuns, with this Sangha I felt proud to be a woman and I don't think I've ever said or felt that.
Unlike the monastery the nuns here seemed to operate in unison, like a little community. When the elderly nun was asked about hierarchy or the level of teaching each nun received she simply smiled & in a local dialect said, 'a nun is just a nun'; amazing.
The mundane daily duties were seamlessly carried out, like these women were in tune, that they could read each other's minds, like the harmony brought with it great pleasure.
The luminous glow from these nuns in pink was divine, their auras shone a full spectrum of colour; young and old these women shared laughter & radiated joy.
After a shared practice, Ede asked if there was anything, any projects etc she could help support out here.
Dom relayed the message and the elder nun spoke of her desire to build a teaching room suitable to hold fifty nuns. Without any hesitation Ede & Lesley offered to fund the project outright. I was so moved by their gesture, tears were rolling down my cheeks. To make such a gesture but to offer it so unconditionally, without querying over cost, size, materials; was just incredible.
Another elderly nun came in and sat right next to Ede smoking a cigar. It was hilarious like two peas in a pod, the meeting of two soul sisters worlds apart. Either one of them could have told a story and would have captured their audience; it was such a special moment.
After clumsily tripping into the shower, we headed out to watch the sun set from the upper level of one of Bagan's many pagodas; me being here, seeing & experiencing all this just feels crazy, but I'm so glad I am; what a way to spend our last night in Burma & what an incredible group of people to have experienced it with.