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The Burma Experience – Day Seven

Today we visited another village, alongside the river. Here, the local people make clay pots. All their materials are free – they gather clay from the river and mix it with sand from the river bank. This forms the basis of their pots.

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Every single pot is hand thrown and then a young girl sits and finishes the pot off, using a smooth round tool for the inside and a carved piece of wood for the outside to create the pattern.

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The pots are then left outside to dry a little for a few days, and then they are fired in an open air kiln. The kilns use wood, but they also use the dried remains of the sesame plants when the seeds have been removed. They are built into huge domes – some with as many as 3000 pots inside. When the firing is complete, the women begin to journey back to the river for the pots to be take off to market.

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All of this work, and each pot is worth 50 US cents! That is all they can sell them for.

Each family has their own area – where they work, eat and sleep – and each has their own kiln and process.

We met the old lady of the village, who is shown great respect by everybody. She doesn’t know how old she is.

We met the old lady of the village, who is shown great respect by everybody. She doesn’t know how old she is.

Most of the cooking is done outside on open fires (brought inside during the rainy season). The image below is one of the cooking areas as the woman prepares lunch for the family.

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They were very happy to let us see inside their homes. It goes without saying there is no running water, and no sanitation.

They were very happy to let us see inside their homes. It goes without saying there is no running water, and no sanitation.

After a tour of the village, we went to another school. The children are delightful, and love having their photos taken – especially if they can see the photo afterwards. I was amazed at how many of them put their fingers on the picture and tried to swipe it (I was using a conventional camera – but they thought it would work like a mobile phone). Despite everything, mobile phones are now very common and they were obviously expecting to see other images.

It’s hard to think of the changes that will occur in this wonderful country over the next few years. At the moment, the people believe strongly in the rules of Buddha, and they are gentle, kind people. It will be interesting to see what happens to them as tourism increases (set to grow from 2 million to 5 million tourists this year), and their expectations change.

This afternoon we had a demonstration of how to make tea leaf salad – a traditional Burmese dish. It was really delicious – packed with nuts, lime juice, fish sauce and all kinds of other delights.

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After the demonstration, they were looking for volunteers to try to make an equivalent salad. I, of course, felt compelled to volunteer, and was pitted against a fellow Channel Islands resident – Mick. He cheated, pushed me out of the way, added extras when I wasn’t looking (we only had three minutes), but I am pleased to say that in spite of that, I still won the tea leaf salad competition, and won yet another longyi (the traditional skirt). So that’s four I’ve got now!!

Traditional tea-leaf salad.

Traditional tea-leaf salad.

An early start tomorrow as we’re heading into the jungle. I’m excited, because it’s the closest I will get to seeing the land that my dad saw all those years ago.

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