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What I’ve Realized…

Dear loved ones,

We write to you from our transference space, the Bago Metta Peace Center. Tucked away in the forest, this humble abode has been our base for our first and last days in Myanmar.

Today is bittersweet. We realize that our community of 16, most likely, will never be altogether again. We are melancholy when we think of the people, community, and culture we are leaving behind. But we are also eager to share our experiences, reconnect with our loved ones, and put the lessons we learned about ourselves and the world into action back home. We are different people from when we began. This course taught us about Myanmar’s visions of democracy. And so much more.

As a brand new instructor, I (Hannah) entered this month much like our students: anxious, unsure what to expect, nervous about what I could contribute, and eager to learn and challenge myself. This past month has been a learning experience for everyone. We’ve laughed; we’ve loved; we’ve fought; we’ve been homesick. We’ve challenged ourselves; we’ve refined our world views. We’re leaving with more questions than answers.

We, the instructor team, witnessed profound growth in each and every student. We have seen everyone epitomize resilience, empathy, curiosity, kindness, generosity, and humility throughout and we could not be more grateful for the unique community—no, family—we formed this past month.

Today, we asked our students to respond to a final prompt: “This trip made me realize…”. We will be processing this experience for weeks, months, years to come. As individuals, amongst ourselves, and with all you back home. But for now, here are some insights:

Emma:

I’ve realized that no matter where you go, people are people. We may all have different culture and different languages and. Overall different ways. Of life, but some things are universal. Laughter and songs, family and friends, compassion and heart. These things make us human. It doesn’t matter where you liver how you do it. We are all fundamentally. More alike than not, and I think that’s beautiful.

Shiva:

This trip has been rollercoaster all around, especially dealing with my emotions. At home, I use distractions of my privilege and chaos of my life to subdue the thoughts in my head. But here I was truly alone, not quite at peace, but accepting that for the first time in my life I must slow down and “hear” what I have to say. I have to process new lifestyles. I’ve adapted surprisingly easily. The simplicities yet overbearing thoughts of this new environment have really caused me to question the larger concepts of the life I live and the greater scheme of life itself. When I think what’s the meaning of all this, I come back to my initial belief of living life to be the most successful. I have seen real poverty for the first time in my life. At home I have my own room. Here, I sleep on the floor of a family’s living room. When I first arrived, I asked myself: who could ever live like this, don’t they want more? But after being welcomed into one. Of thekindlst families. I’ve ever met, I found the answer. The meaning of life is love. Life is the grandmother’s hands that prepare meals for her family on a stone stove on the floor. Life is the farmers breaking their backs in the rice fields after waking up at 4am only to return 12 hours later with the biggest smiles on their faces to greet their children and parents. Life’s in the little boy pushing his two year old sister on the swing just to hear her laugh. Life is love. And it is so easy to forget that in the chaotic life we live at home. I haven realized you can have all the money in the world but if you don’t have love, you have nothing. Life is love.

Charles:

Myanmar made me realize that human cultures are diverse and beautiful;

that the meta-narrative of globalization is only part of the story;

that indigenous wisdom is beyond comprehension of the modern minds;

that the Mother Nature has spirits;

that every sentient being has its own life;

that privileged city dwellers have amnesia;

that it’s time to reexamine our values;

that it’s time reevaluate the cost of our action;

that it’s time to reflect upon humanity’s future.

Hannah:

This trip in Myanmar made me realize I can live with a whole new perspective. I got to see firsthand that a family with no unnecessary materials was the happiest. I go to see direct consequences of our negative environmental impact. It is easy to ignore the problems of the world when you don’t see the outcomes. But when you trek through the mountains and see trash dumped into a bush or oils floating in a lonely river, something changes. A realization occurs.

When you can’t discuss politics in the open, a realization occurs. In America, we live in a bubble of freedom and ignorance. Exposing myself to Myanmar made me realize life is so much more than we think it is. B ad actions have consequences. Wealth can lead to corruption. Love can lead to mindfulness and peace.

I came into this trip knowing there were problems in the world but not knowing to what magnitude. This trip in Myanmar. Made me realize that everything we do has an impact, for better or for worse.

Will:

I’ve come to realize how much I take for granted back in New Jersey. Before traveling throughout Myanmar and meeting various classes of people, I strongly believed pure happiness was not possible without wealth in the form of money. However, after living in the homes somewhat isolated farmers, I came to realize the difference between poverty versus simplicity. These families seemed to appreciate the world far more than many with plenty of resources. I have come to believe that in the face of society, name prefer to live less complex lives. These pzeopledon’t. Abide by society norms and regularities I’m used to, and I’ve come to appreciate and realize this.

Lucy:

Mosquito nets aren’t actually designed to keep the mosquitoes out but to keep the human inside.

Cade:

All religions can be weaponized, and In order to fix a lot of the problems associated with conflict about differences, we as a society need to learn to be more tolerant and accepting of these differences. These can be as large-scale as living in a different country and speaking a different language, toeing from a different state and being raised on different family traditions. Regardless,  an awareness of these differences is necessary to live cohesively as a global community and realize that there are many different values, beliefs, and goals that vary around the world.

Sara:

This month in Myanmar made me realize how much abundance I have and how I take it for granted. The homestay village specifically, and staying with my host family, made me realize how much effort and time goes into everything. A meal, for example. In order to have a meal in my homestay, my host family has to prepare the land, to plant the seeds, to grow the food. And then they tend the. Crops until they are ready to be harvested. They then harvest the food. Then they have got obtain the wood to fuel the fire that they cook the food on and pick the spices that they will use for each dish. And then after all of that they sit down and have their meal that they put their hard work, effort, and pride into. Meanwhile back in the USA, I would just go to Chipotle and be in and out in five minutes with my burrito and not even think twice of how I got it or what effort was put into it. This experience makes me so aware of my own privilege and just how much I have. I was so used to all that I had, I was acclimated and almost numbest it. Now seeing how much effort it takes to have even the simplest things gives me perspective and makes me feel so much more grateful for what I have. I will not take that for granted. This trip really opened my eyes endgame mea whole new perspective keep in mind when returning home.. Even though the past four weeks have been a challenging rollercoaster of highs and lows, I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to experience it all.

Alisa:

I am more aware of my actions and their effects, and the importance family and a good support system.

Charlotte:

Our definition of living a good and happy life should be redefined. We don’t have to be very rich or live in a big house full of expensive and sometimes useless objects to be happy. On this trip, I learned that you can be happy without all these things. At the homestay, the houses were small and barely had any furniture or decorations. They have all the basic necessities and are surrounded by friends and family. They live in simplicity but still have a good and happy life. I believe that we can learn from these people. We should put less value in materialistic things and more value in family, friends, and the simple things in life.

Tristan:

I look great in longyis (skirts). And it is necessary to put sunblock on your feet.

Alice Rose:

I realize how simply we could all live. Yet we fill our houses with decorative items such as chandeliers, overly large couches, or multiple lams on tables. Some of us have rooms, in our houses, that we barely use. Is there need to have multiple bathrooms? Or do we just have them on every floor and in the bedroom for convenience? Most of the things we own we have because society made us want it. In the future, we should really think about how much use will get out of the thing we’re about to buy.

Oscar:

This trip put simply, changed my life and my outlook on it. I met amazing, unique people and saw these incredible beautiful places. Thank you so much to Dragons and all the wonderful people that made this trip a once in life time experience.

 

As always, with gratitude,

Team Myanmar