Friday, 29 April 2016

Bagan (Day 1)


I first visited Bagan in 2008, as just one destination on the trip Round the World Five.

The dusty Plain of Bagan has the remains of 2,000 pagodas, many over 1,000 years old. In the heyday of the city there were reputedly over 20,000 pagodas. The area never fails to impress even the most cynical. Ruination does not deter the local people from veneration of the sites and modern donors achieve Merit by 'restoring' the structures, using techniques which appall archaeolgists.

In the Afterword post to 'Round the World Five' I wrote "I was impressed with the charitable initiatives that the 'Road to Mandalay' ship is involved in covering education and medicine ... Kipling wrote "Burma is different from anywhere you have ever seen" and in his poem 'Road to Mandalay' he describes how the country draws you back. He was right - I intend to return to Myanmar". An accurate forecast, but I didn't realise how important a place of 'pilgrimage' the country would become to me - this is my tenth visit. Following later visits, I made contributions to various school projects (for instance, see the post about the opening of a new school building at Htee Pu here. Incidentally, 'Htee Pu' is rendered as 'Ti Pu' in early posts - the Romanisation of Burmese words is a very variable feast which leads to endless confusion.

The Doctor and the Abbot of Bagan Monastery had the ambition to build a small medical clinic at Bagan to serve the local population and, later, I also joined in this project. The opening ceremony in 2011 is described here but the growth in demand since has exceeded all expectations. There are a number of posts chronicling this growth here.

Events of Friday, 29th April 2016

Dr. Hla Tun is the Chief medical Officer of the Bagan Medical Centre, so is normally there on the clinic opening days of Friday, Saturday and Sunday each week. Since he was in Yangon on the previous day, this involved an early start so as to catch the 6.00 a.m. flight from Yangon to Nyaung Oo (Bagan), where the Monastery Car transferred him to the Clinic.

Yangon Airport - 6.00 a.m.

An already-exhausted Jan accompanied him. We arrived at the Clinic around 8.00 a.m. and were soon met by the elderly, smiling Abbott who (like everyone else in Myanmar) always presses food upon me. We share not one word of each others language but seem to communicate well enough (with occasional outside help). I have great respect for this community leader who always seems concerned for the welfare of the local people.

After breakfast (I enjoyed a special rice congee but declined the chicken and fish), one of the Monks who has been involved with the daily running of the Clinic since its opening then showed the Doctor and I the building work in progress on the fourth, and largest, clinic building.

This young monk has been involved with the Clinic since its opening.

The latest building is of reinforced concrete construction provided with two floors and a flat roof accessible by stairs around which the builders were installing balustrading. The necessary sacks of cement were being carried up to the roof level balanced on the heads of three lady labourers who were also mixing the cement using long-handled shovels.

The 2-storey Clinic Building under construction at Bagan Medical Clinic.

It was a quiet day - only 80 patients had registered when Doctor Hla Tun started seeing patients at 9.00 a.m. Three other Doctors were also on duty - two young Doctors from Yangon on a Stanford programme who form part of a rota system and one regular, locally-based doctor. Howevever, by the time Doctor Hla Tun stopped for lunch at 2.00 p.m., the total number of patients has risen to 130, ensuring the customary late finish for Doctor Hla Tun who carries out all the more complicated procedures and diagnoses. I've described my observations in Dr. Hla Tun's consultation room in a separate post The Work of Bagan Medical Centre.

In the afternoon the Doctor had arranged the monastery car to take me to visit the Jetawun Monastic Education Center (their spelling) in Nyaung Oo.

Jetawun Monastic Education Centre

I'd known of this monastic school for some time, but this was my first visit. My friends at the Royal Burma Society in Great Britain have provided donations to the school and they suggested that I should try to visit during this trip

Because my visit coincided with the summer school holiday period in Myanmar, the school was not open but the monk who runs the school, Baddanta Ar Deik Sa, received me and showed me some of the extensive facilities.

Baddanta Ar Delk Sa of the Jetawun Monastic Education Center, Nyaung Oo.

The Education Center was founded in 2006 and the growth in student numbers since then is notable:-

Academic Year Number of Students
2006-2007 46
2007-2008 120
2008-2009 203
2009-2010 270
2010-2011 330
2011-2012 370
2012-2013 375
2013-2014 380
2014-2015 376
2015-2016 380

Related posts

Next post in this series.

All my posts on this trip can be found here.

My pictures

Bagan Medical Clinic (day 1).
Bagan Medical Clinic: Construction of 2-storey Building.
Jetawun Monastic Education Center.