Sunday, January 11, 2015

Every time we have flown out of Bangkok and begun the descent to our destination, I look out the window and my breath catches. Trees, mountains, land, grass. Nature. The hand of God so clearly visible. I don't notice how badly I miss it in this Concrete Jungle until I see it. Suddenly a weight is lifted and it is well with my soul. We are meant to commune with God in His creation, all of us, I promise.

So when it came time to decide on our Burma itinerary, I knew I wanted to do a trek (yes, even after the infamous KK disaster). We signed up for a three day, two night trek leaving from Kalaw, a wonderful and chilly little mountain town. We flew Yangon to Heho and drove the short distance from Heho to Kalaw. Arriving mid-day, we meandered about the town until we stumbled upon Sam's Family Restaurant, where we had heard we could book a guide for our trek. Sure enough, there was a small crowd of tourists all trying to warm themselves over tea and soup, while waiting their turn to book a guide. We sat with two Dutch guys and, after being explained the route options (one short, one long), we all decided to do the trek together, and since you only live once, we chose the long route. We were set to leave early the next day, so after a delicious Indian food dinner, Mark and I went to bed at promptly 8:00 ( we were exhausted from our few days with Maung Ways family, which included 6:00 am church services and many midnight, or later, orange soda parties while we met yet another distant relative).

The next day seven of us started out. Mark and I, the two Dutch guys, and a couple from Israel, and our wonderful, magnanimous guide, named Zaw. We walked a total of 60 kilometers, which averaged out to be between 6.5 to 8 hours walking a day. The landscapes were breath-taking, the people beautiful and friendly, our group of six were quick friends, and we all agreed that our guide was the best. Zaw, in all his 20 year-old vigor, sang, danced, jumped, skipped, and laughed his way through the Burmese hill tribes and straight into our hearts. I have never met a more joyful person. Zaw, born in a small village called Kanbani, of the ethnic minority, Taung Yoe, is one of those kids teachers pray for. From a young age he says he heard English and he felt like he wanted to know it, so he practiced and tried and is the first in his family of rice farmers to finish school and speak English. I look at Zaw and I really think he could do anything, he most definitely has the charisma.

He was a most excellent guide- explaining culture, agriculture, language, and religious beliefs to us. We saw Mustard Seeds, Chilis, Rice, Green Tea, various vegetables, Sesame, Beans, and Wheat. Zaw's wonder at all things was infectious, so when he stopped to pick a spider off of it's web and slowly started extending the spider's webbing, explaining as he did so, "I've already spent a WHOLE day pulling the webbing, and it never ends!", I felt certain that my years reading my science text books in an air-conditioned classroom paled in comparison to his vast knowledge of all things living in his backyard, the hillsides of Burma.

After three days, aching legs, and sun burnt cheeks, we arrived to our destination, Inle Lake. We rode a long boat from a small village off of the lake, passing houses on stilts, and the most unique "farming" I've ever seen. It was a truly magical three days....I would love the chance to do it again.

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