Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Yangon,Yangon, Day 2

Yangon was hot, dirty, decaying, and full of surprises.

On Sunday morning we set out to walk to the large golden temple, Shwedagon, but on the way we came to Trinity Catholic Church where mass in English was about to begin.  I couldn't pass it up.  It was the feast of Christ the King, which had been celebrated in Albuquerque some weeks before. We were warmly welcomed by greeters who ushered us in. The hymns, mostly familiar from my Protestant childhood surprised me.  "All people that on earth do dwell... ," "O worship the King...," "Jesus shall reign where ere the sun," and a final rousing, "Hold the fort for I am coming!"  ( I don't know when I'd last heard that one!). During the communion I am sure I heard playing that imperialist "In Christ there is no East nor West..."
Halfway up the aisle to take communion, I realized that everyone but me was barefoot (the tradition in Buddhist and Hindu temples) so quickly took off my sandals and left them by a column to retrieve later.  As I knelt at the alter I realized that everyone else had held their host to dip in the cup (not accepted practice back home), but too late for me, so I drank from the cup, and young minister didn't hesitate at all.  Then I looked up to the side and glimpsed through arches overhead, Christmas trees in storage.  The service was well over an hour long, but with a lovely message about all of us through Christ having the power of kings, and that we should be aware of the power of our actions and words to help and bless or thoughtlessly hurt others.  Alas,I never took any photos inside the church. 

It was very warm in the church, despite open doors on two sides, and even hotter as we went out along the street to resume our trek to the temp,e.  On the way we passed a smaller temple, richly decorated with mirrors and colored glass.  There were families everywhere making offerings.  We also passed ruins of once grand houses along what must have once been a great boulevard with mosaic sidewalks, not in sad disrepair.  Watch for holes in the sidewalk, our driver had told us.  Indeed, there were some very large and deep holes.  Near the outskirts of the temple we came to the mausoleum of U Thant, Secretary-General of the U tied Nations, 1961-1971.

 On to the grand Shwedagon at last, up a long inside staircase lined with souvenir stands. I was most impressed by the alligator with large rows of teeth that formed the edging of the staircase. We emerged into the almost blinding light reflecting off white marble and countless gold pinnacles.  The stones were almost too hot to step on in our bare feet, and the green mats were only slightly cooler.

The temple was jammed with families making offerings, praying, picnicking, and even checking their email and messages.  Kent said he saw a sign at one point for free wi-fi.

 Unfortunately we didn't have water with us or think to buy some before we got into the temple, where all that was available was water from a glass jug, with a tin cup attached.  Both Kent and I ended up drinking that water from that cup. Mid-day was definitely not the time to be there!  We ended up taking a taxi back to the hotel where we had a quiet, cool lunch and a nap before heading out in the evening past more decaying buildings, shanty towns, the riverside and another crowded, magnificent golden temple.

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