i woke up early the next morning, still sleepy, but feeling a bit better. the two brothers greeted me at the door of my hotel. naing naing had evenutally made it back home late the previous night. we rented some bikes and went out to go look at temples. even though i had thought i had seen enough of temples, i ended up really enjoying the tour. instead of just staring at the temples and not knowing what i was looking at, i had everything explained to me by lwin. he took me to a bunch of really cool temples, showed me which temples you could hike up to the top of, and showed me a bunch of stuff that i would never have found on my own. he showed me all of these old drawings and murals inside the temples that were so dark you could barely see them. he showed me secret passages. i saw a lot of really cool stuff.
but the best parts of the day i think were spent just chilling in teashops chatting about life. we kept surprising each other w/ facts about our countries. for instance, he asked me if i had a phone. of course, i assumed he meant cellphone and said yes, but he actually just meant an ordinary plug into the wall phone. most people in myanmar dont have one! and as for cell phones, he hardly even knew what one was. he said he thinks he saw one japanese person one day talking on one, but that’s about all the experience he’s had w/ them. it’s weird cause i dont know of any other country w/ no cell phones. even india, in the most rural areas where people had practically nothing, i still saw cell phones. but not here. he told me other stuff like how here school is only *2* days a week! no wonder education isn’t all that good! he told me that the thatch and bamboo houses that people live in cost about 200$. it was really interesting to talk about just how different life was in the two countries.
lwin and his girlfriend
eventually, we headed back to his house and had lunch that his mother had made. the food was really good. maybe the home cooking here is better than the restaurant fare? as usual, his family was ridiculously nice to me. offering snacks while i waited for lunch. buying me bottled water since i couldnt drink their water. everyone was just too nice!!
lwin’s mother, father, niece, and sister
eventually we headed out to go see more temples. we had been biking around all day, and my legs were getting tired, but we had been incredibly lucky cause this happened to be the one and only day when it wasn’t hot. there was cloud cover and for just one day i actually was comfortable. at one of the temples we went to, i was bombarded by a bunch of little girls all asking me where i was from and what my name was. after i told them and walked towards the temple, they said in unison “after.. you come to my shop!!!” uh-oh. as soon as i left the temple, the girls were on me, dragging me to their parent’s booths. although it’s sad to see little kids this age having to work, it was still hillarious watching these kids try to mimic their parents. everything the parents said, the kids would squeek too. “what you buy? i give you special price! good discount!” followed by a chipmunk voice w/ garbled english “you buy! give special price!! discount!!”. too funny. in the end, i couldnt say no to the little kids and bought some lacquerware.
eventually, sightseeing was over and we went back to the brothers’ house for dinner. everyone sat down on the floor and ate at the tiny table. once again, the food was good. and once again, everyone was ridiculously nice… too nice in fact. fish curry was the main course and when they noticed i was having issues w/ the bones in the fish, lwin’s sister took it upon herself to remove all the bones from my fish. she took hunks of fish, one at a time, and after meticulously removing any bones, she would put tiny deboned pieces of fish on my plate for me to eat. sheez.. i really felt pathetic having someone manage my food for me, but despite me saying over and over that i didnt need help, she wouldnt listen. dinner was a lot of fun though. the mom kept encouraging me to eat more and more and would laugh heartily when i kept trying to say i was full. the little kids in the family would peek around corners or peek in from outside and giggle at me. heh.
in the end, i was pretty much time for me to go, and upcoming was a moment i had been dreading. the thing is, everyone had been so nice to me, helped me so much, taken me on the boat trip, given me food, and spent all day showing me temples, that i really wanted to give something back to show my appreciation. but what to give?? i’d feel awkward just offering them cash. would that be rude? would that be an insult, if they had been calling me their dear freind, and i instead paid them like a guide? maybe i should offer to buy them something? would that be better? i didnt know how to bring it up. part of me was hoping they would just ask for some money. but then, the other part worried that if they asked for a bunch of cash, that i’d feel like everything they had done for me was just for money. what to do. what to do!
luckily, i had the decision made for me. naing naing pulled me to the side and opened up his set of paintings. he said that in a few days, there was this big donation ceremony, and that if i bought a painting from them, they could give the money to their mother. they seemed very distressed about the whole thing and kept repeating that i was totally not obligated to buy anything, and that i shouldnt buy if i dont want to and kept appologizing for even asking, but i kept saying it was no problem, and that i really wanted to help them out. eventually i chose a painting. he seemed very appologetic, but eventually said he wanted 20$ for it… much less than the actuall selling price he had told me days earlier. when i gave him the money, he even gave me a second painting as a gift. i couldnt believe that after everything they had done for me, they had only asked for 20 bucks. not to mention, that over the weekend, they hadn’t let me pay for *anything*. they bought me all my beer, water, food, ribbons, everything. i’m sure they must have spent at least 10 bucks on all of that stuff.
like i said, they were just too nice. but it didnt end there. when it was time for me to leave, one of their friends had come over. why? to drive my bike home. naing naing and his friend took *both* of the bicycles back to the hotel for me, while his brother gave me a lift on his scooter. i kept begging for them not to bother. why shoud they have to take the bikes back while i rode a cush scooter? but they just kept repeating that i was a dear friend and that i had been biking all day and must be tired, so they wouldnt let me bike back. i just couldnt believe these people!!
eventually, we got back to the hotel and i said goodbye to everyone. they said i definitely need to come back some day. i would really like to.. really really. i feel so lucky to have met and become friends w/ such nice people…