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Fifty Years of My Life (1939 - 1990)
A Memoir by Jeff R. Noordermeer

Burmese Hospitality

I call him God, but some people have different names for that power above. Nevertheless, God looks after all those people, the rain comes on time for their rice crops, and the sun shines when it's needed. How can some people say there is no God or the mystic power above? Here it is so noticeable that there is a strong power above.

Most of those people have no daily income as we do in our industrialized modern world. With all our highly educational system and the technical world we are surrounded with, we classify ourselves to be so fortunate and rich in cultures. But the richness I witnessed in this village by those lovely people, I will never encounter in the society I live in. When I left the village I was thinking, who gives us the right to say that those people are living a poor life. There is so much richness in those people's lives, which I could never find in the modern world I live in.

What I saw of those people is that they are very happy with the kind of life they are living, and like to be left alone in their daily life affairs. Sometimes we Westerners think that we should introduce some of our comforts into their society, and that they are needed. But I have seen that it's sometimes a disgrace to disturb other societies. I will never forget those lovely people, and I will always have a spot in my heart that will one day want to visit their village again.

For two days I did nothing but visit old friends in the Rangoon area. Once my old friends found out that I was around they all wanted me to come and visit them. I have associated with Burmese in the U.S. since the year of 1957. Some of them came as young men and studied at the Universities in the U.S.A. Others I became friendly with through the Burmese Embassy in Washington. Some of those friends I haven't seen in more that 20 years. All of them were married and had families.

The Burmese are very open and hospitable people. If you visit their homes they want you to feel like you are at your own home. Every house I went to I was treated with all kinds of different food dishes. It's very important to them that you eat their food, and when you sit at the table and your plate gets a little empty, somebody is right there to put more food on your plate.

Televisions were a rarity in most people's homes. Only the well-to-do people had TV's in their homes. It was just too expensive for ordinary people to buy one. There was about three hours of TV shows a day. Sometimes American movies were on the daily TV program.

One day I walked down the road to Sally's brother's house. When I walked into the front door I saw many slippers in the hallway. Burmese people will always take their shoes or slippers off before entering the house. When Sally's brother greeted me in front of the hallway, I said to him, "you must have a large family in this house". He said to me, "go upstairs in the TV room and look for yourself". As I went upstairs to the TV room it was very quiet and the only noise I could hear was the TV. When I entered the TV room it was filled with people, and all of them were watching with great interest an American movie. When I went downstairs I asked Sally's brother if he invited all of those people. He told me they know exactly what time the movie is on the television, and all of them are from the neighborhood and invite themselves. I was thinking when I saw all those people sitting around the TV how different their society is from ours. Sally's brother didn't mind at all that those people came to his house and shared in his pleasure of watching the TV. Our society we live in can be so cold. Your next door neighbors sometimes don't even have the courtesy to say hello, don't even think about inviting you to their homes.

Eighty percent of all the Burmese people are Buddhist. In most every Burmese home I visited there was a Buddhist altar in some quiet room of the house. Each altar had different Buddha figurines with lights and flowers. You could always see some fruits on a plate with a glass of fresh water. All of these were daily offerings to Buddha. It reminded me when I was a child in most of the Catholic homes we had an altar in most of our living rooms with a figurine of Jesus Christ, and around it some of our favorite holy Saints. All of this now has disappeared in the living rooms of the Western Catholic industrialized countries.

CONTINUED: Buddhism in Burma
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© Copyright  - Antonio Zamora

- Foreword
- Old Rotterdam
- World War II
- After the War
- Coming to America
- Washington, D.C.
- Southeast Asia
- Philosophy of Life

- Book Index