Hello, my name is Sheldon, a healthcare professional with IDEAS who lives in Thailand. My wife, a licensed nurse, and our 9-month old daughter traveled with me for a week to Kyaukkyi, Myanmar. This is where the clinic associated with IDEAS’ partner health practitioner program is located. Enjoy these reflections of my week in rural Myanmar, a place whose people are warm and welcoming.
We arrived at night into Kyaukkyi and could not see much. There are no street lights where we were and there are mostly dirt roads with lots of bumps and holes. Some parts of the road were very difficult for the car to maneuver through. We had a full car of five people and our luggage.
Once it was noticed that we arrived, they welcomed us with open arms and quickly helped us get situated. Our beds were put together, the mosquito nets connected to the walls, the water buckets in the bathroom filled, and our baby was already making new friends.
Eastern style toilets and bucket showers are nothing new to us but it just takes a little time getting used to it again. This bathroom also had a resident frog that we sometimes forgot was there.
Now our first morning where we got to experience the village in daylight opened our eyes to our surroundings. We realized exactly how many other homes were around us and where in relation to the clinic and student housing we were located. When I saw the field for the first time and the church I was surprised at how beautiful and open this area was. In one view you have a wide open square field with grass and all sorts of animals and children playing. Sometimes motorbikes cut across the field but otherwise its usually quite peaceful. On one edge of the field is a church that looks upon the field. Across from that is where the students were temporarily staying in a dorm type building. A third edge of the field is where the clinic is located as it looks out onto the square. Nothing but dirt roads surround the field and mostly pedestrians, bicycles, and motor bikes use them. Occasionally a truck or oxcart pass through as well. In the backdrop are the rolling hills of Myanmar and a pagoda sticking out at the top of one of those hills.
As I walked around the village area children would point and exclaim that I was a foreigner. Adults would watch on as we passed by taking a break from sweeping and burning leaves. It seemed that there were little chicklets around every corner running through the brush. I noticed piles and piles of sticks and bamboo neatly organized in front of most homes. I realized later that the wood and bamboo is used to cook and stay warm at night. Outdoor outhouses, bathhouses, and dish washing areas are used often.
On Sunday morning the church rings its bell when the service is ready to begin. I stood and looked out on the field as hundreds of local villagers appeared out from the trees and poured into the church. The building was packed with not many empty seats available. I observed as the church body sang in a language that I do not understand but God does understand it and hear it.
There is no internet in this village area and the power goes out often enough that when it does no one even flinches. This made my reliance on Prezi presentation software and YouTube videos a weakness point. Nevertheless, I used offline capabilities and with numerous hands-on activities to teach my anatomy and physiology classes. I felt like I was on a week-long camping trip.
One constant reminder that we are living in the year 2017 were all the satellite dishes on most homes. And at night, the use of flashlights was needed or at least the ones on your cell phones.
I look forward to my return trip to Mynamar, a land that had endured countless years of civil war. I know the work that we do is needed and I am privileged to work with such dedicated people.