by Evelyn Hanneman
Wednesday was filled with the unexpected. The drive from Yangon to Moulmein offered interesting insight into life in Myanmar.
The sighting of a huge Buddha statue that was under construction led to the decision to stop by to see it up close. We learned that the 94-year old Abbott of a nearby monastery had decided to build it 8 years before. The foundation has been laid and the face is complete but there is much work to be done.
The watchman shared a fascinating story. The king of Thailand has been ill and in and out of the hospital. One night he had a dream in which an Abbott from Myanmar came and gave him some medicine that made him better. The next day he awoke feeling better and was able to leave the hospital. The king sent an emissary to Myanmar to find this Abbott. There had been stories in the local papers about how this Abbott who is building this statue was the Abbott of the King's dream. The King sent many gifts as thanks.
While at the site, we noticed that the rubber trees right next to it were being tapped, and asked if we could take pictures.
The watchman led us into the rubber plantation, right to where several men and one woman were harvesting the rubber and preparing it to transport and sell. We spent a wonderful hour with them, learning about the process, with Percy even taking a stint at turning the crank.
We learned that the woman and her husband owned this plantation, and that he was the nephew of the Abbott. Seems that they probably donated the land for the statue.
From then on, we were experts at recognizing the rubber trees along the road, noticing whether they were old enough to be tapped, were being tapped or were an old growth that was being replaced with new trees.