A newsletter for friends of the Global Mission Institute, Luther Seminary

Global Vision - Fall 2009

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Compressed Memories of Intense Impressions

by Jen Kuntz, '09

Jen Kuntz in Myanmar

July 4-August 2, 2009

Our faithful driver stops in front of the hotel at 8:30 a.m. sharp to deliver us for our morning session. I sit farthest from the sunny windows. 

Today's local presenter wears traditional clothing: a nearly neon colored longyi with striped pattern, a plain, white shirt and a band of colorful cloth around his head. He reads carefully chosen English words from a paper before we break for chapel followed by tea time and further discussion of the Bible as interpreted through his ethnic group's culture and lifestyle. 

Lunch awaits us at a local congregation, where we meet 15 new people whose names we slowly forget over the next half hour. Piling into two vans, our group bumps and wades through waterlogged streets to a nearby mission site. Today we learn about a Wa youth center. Here they live safely and study overtime in the evenings hoping for a life holding choices and opportunities. 

We have the evening free as usual. I take advantage of the time and walk through the city. The smell of cooked food wafts into my nose. Nearby are skewers of spiced meat ready to be fried or grilled at a moment's notice. Searing hot woks dot the front of many street side restaurants where men sit idly without work. As I move down the block, scents change from sweet mangoes to pungent durian.

I notice a fruit that reminds me of prickly pears, but it is neither prickly nor pears. Green tendrils swirl out from the oblong red skin. The inside is a soft, sweet, white fruit enclosing a hard pit.  Bags of the skins lie strewn on sidewalks.

People pass by me at a slow pace. No one is in a hurry to arrive or leave any place. Children pass by in school uniforms, emblems stitched onto white shirts and vibrant green skirts or shorts to match. 

As I walk along the street I am cautious not to trip on garbage or fall into the drainage ditch covered by large, loose cement tiles. Red splotches paint streets and sidewalks from the tobacco-like product many men chew and spit.

Trucks packed full of people— arms and heads sticking out while others clutch truck railing tightly— go whizzing by. Passengers jump off at abrupt stops. No one flies around or out of the truck because they are packed like sardines. Buses ferry people through crowded streets for 200 Kyats (20 cents). Taxi drivers honk their horns to get the attention of foreigners asking "Taxi? Taxi?"

Turning down a side street there are fewer people along here, but just as many tea shops, restaurants and small shops with living quarters above. The bike shop, owned by an Australian, is on the left near the baby supplies store. I pass two Internet cafes filled with people connecting to the world. On the right is a huge pile of sand that has washed into the street.  No one knows what it's for. As I pass the hotel's tiled driveway, I anticipate the air conditioning in the lobby.

Dirt-colored water sloshes over my sandals today from last night's downpour. A small pond floods the road near the Moon Bakery where I stop for dinner. The waiters recognize me and quickly bring a menu.  A large steaming bowl of noodles and chicken wontons arrives. I notice my feet have dried out in the air conditioned cafe. 

Tomorrow brings new places, but our schedule remains the same.

Read more reflections from Kuntz about her time in Myanmar at throughtheopendoorway.blogspot.com