Arrival in Yangon

Soundtrack, Listen to while you read: Yo Yo Ma Cello Suite No. 1 (because everything's a blur)

I can't stop smiling. Sister Merkley picked us up from the airport (if there were an eHarmony pairing grandparents to grandkids, she'd be my match) and we went straight to church. There is something magical about the sacrament prayer in another language. I love to hear it, thinking that 2000+ years ago was the last supper and here we are in Myanmar year 2553 of the Buddha, blessing that same bread. I got to play the piano (at least for opening and closing, Kitty is practicing sacrament hymns for her upcoming mission to Pocatello, ID) and I am again thankful for Marsha Nielson's 4 years of efforts in teaching me. My children will learn enough to play piano in branches where they are needed.
The Merkley's on either side of me and the Smiths on the left. Love them!
I've never heard more zeal from a 30 member congregation before- mostly from a 60 year old woman, Sister Alice who smelled like cooked pasta and was one of the first members here in Burma. There's not Book of Mormon in Burmese- they're working on the hymns now but it's been a problem because the big bad church requires that they be doctrinally correct (weird, I know) and there's not words for things like 'Angel' in Burmese (it translates to something like a fairy. That's a problem). The branch president looks about 25 and his wife is seriously a babe. The 3 hours of church meetings were given in English and Burmese, impressive look at translation power in the country, but hard to listen to because I'm so tired from jet lag I can hardly concentrate. Lisa keeps poking me to stay awake.
Sister Alice on the left; Sister Janet on the right basically started it all for the church here by inviting everyone she knows to church (missionaries can't proselyte so there's not too many other options)
We spend the afternoon with the Merkleys, after a homey lunch of chicken casserole and papaya with lime. Richard Green, an eager branch member stops by to visit and tells me in his game show announcer voice and 100mph burmese accent about his ice business (''we distribute all sheps and sezes of ais. big ais, medium ais and small ais...'')
You can tell from my googly eyes how I feel about Richard Green
Monday was our Yangon party. The Merkleys took us to a monastery school where LDSC helped build new latrines. I feel like I'm so used to seeing poverty now that shanty homes and dusty markets don't even phase me. Is that bad? I hate being the white tourist behind windows of a nice (or not so nice in Burma's case) car as we look out like some odd reverse zoo. I want to get out when Sister Merkley gets out to buy bananas but I'm just too tired.
Twin monk girls. Two cute!

Off to one of Yangon's top Buddhist sites- a massive porcelain looking reclining Buddha - the eye alone is 5'8" wide and made of pure glass. They didn't have a factory equipped to make such a sacred eyeball so they built one for the job. It's apparently in shambles now but you can still go dig out blown glass from heaps in the adjacent jungle. The gift shop sells all the knick knacks you'd expect, some better ones. So begins the quest for souvenirs that don't suck. I'd like to get stuff I might actually use/display in my home someday. Hard to do without a home in mind.

Big Buddha, big Buddha, aww yeah, big Buddha big Buddha big Buddha

Late afternoon- off to Shwedagon Pagoda, so we could see it in the daylight and all lit up at night. It's quite an impressive site, complete with Asia's favorite color: gold. And Buddhas lit by blue and green casino lights of course. I'm pretty sure we were hit on by a group of monks but I'm too uncomfortable about the situation to go over the details enough to decide. I do know there was a cocky approach, lots of smiling and an email request at the end. Ahhh, weirded out.

Don't get the wrong idea. I am NOT touching that monk on the right.

Other pictures from Shwedagon/Yangon

Ringing the bell five times (Satu! Satu! Satu!)

All lit up at night

There are no ATMs in Burma so the missionaries had to bring all the money for their 2 year mission in CASH and exchange it here. Elder Merkley busted out their literally 2 ft. by 3 ft. brick of 1000chat bills (= about $1 each) and played banker for us. Result: wads of grubby, stinky, smelly, sticky, well-used for over 30 years cash we had to cart around with us (let's call us paranoid, and weighed down) for the rest of the trip.

You'll notice a lot of outfit repeats. This one's my favorite.

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