June 5, 2012
Relief International Board Member and Filmmaker, Chip Duncan, reports from the field in Myanmar. This time Duncan gives a background on Burmese life and culture to create an understanding of modern Myanmar.
Understanding modern Myanmar (aka Burma) and Relief International’s efforts to facilitate long-term initiatives in health care, food sustainability and education requires basic knowledge of Burmese life and culture.
More than 80 percent of the population in Myanmar practices Buddhism. Most believe in an orthodox practice called Theravada Buddhism. Theravada, considered the practice of the elders or ancient ones, is also common in the neighboring countries of Laos, Cambodia and Thailand.
Monastic life for young people in Myanmar is much like a spiritual rite of passage in other nations. Most boys and girls, often as young as ten, enter monastic life for a period of time to learn and to meditate. Young monks in particular, participate in daily begging rituals, but with an important twist: the monks beg so others can give. It’s not uncommon to see orange-robed monks or pink-robed nuns at meditation centers, monasteries, temples or simply walking in the communities throughout Myanmar.
The photo below shows young monks begging.
The most well-known spiritual sites in Myanmar include the Schwedagon Pagoda in Yangon and the fabled ancient Buddhist temples of Bagan.
The photo below shows the Bagan Temple ruins.
Located south of the capitol city of Yangon (aka Rangoon), is the delta region where most of Relief International’s programs are underway. Most people in the delta region make their living on fishing and farming. Rice is a major crop in the region and part of the Relief International team is working on sustainable agricultural initiatives including educating farmers about new hybrids of rice and best planting practices.
A Burmese fishermen pictured below.
The landscape of Myanmar varies from mountainous to the dry central plains to tropical areas in the south. Most farming techniques are still small scale and hand-powered and currently Myanmar offers very little in terms of agricultural export. Still, the country’s resources are vast and the open-air markets in Yangon offer a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, and fish.
The photo above shows a vendor at the Yangon market.