I remember being awestruck last year when the new jacaranda blossoms first started to show. I had not realised that Yangon would be so colourful. I had not expected the absolute riot of colour which the flame or flamboyant trees would bring to the city. It was an unexpected and wonderful surprise.
It was particularly wonderful, because the reason I had not been expecting these wonders was because I had been in the midst of the heaviest part of the treatment the previous year. The latter cycles of the eight rounds of chemo, which caused greater and greater restriction in how much I could get around. This was followed by a long spell in Bangkok while I had the daily radiation zapping. So I completely missed this gloriously colourful show around me.
This was just one of several unexpected pleasures I experienced this time last year. Another surprise I had last year, was the unusual placing of a small table outside a neighbour’s gate, as I was leaving home for my dawn swim. As I left on subsequent days, I saw this table with pots of food and the two neighbours sitting near their gate waiting patiently, and noticed a couple of tables outside nearby gates too. There could only be one reason for this. One of the most beautiful sights in the early mornings across the country, and in many other countries in the region as well, such as in Laos, is a long line of robed, barefoot monks as they walk through the streets to collect alms. It is simply heart stopping. And it was clear from the preparations that a new route had been introduced and a line of monks was clearly expected. It was a good few days later before I finally saw the monks. They passed our lane at the same time every day, and this was when I would usually be in the swimming pool. By the time I would get back home, the tables were gone. One day I was late, and there they were. A long, line of silence, serenity and spirituality. Every day after that I used to linger, just waiting to see a glimpse of the line of monks before my swim, but the minutes would tick on and I had to move on to the pool or I would risk missing my swim. Or being very late for work!
And then one day, the table was gone. I think it was probably after one of the full moon festivals but I am honest not completely sure. I think that the monks came down our lane for about a month, but again I am not completely sure. All I know is that the tables were no longer there.
So last week, my spirits rose when I left for my daily swim and I saw the table again outside my neighbour’s gate. Every day this week I would leave before the monks appeared, and the tables would be gone once I returned. So that is why, on a Saturday morning, when usually I luxuriate in a longer sleep, I was up around the usual time. Instead of getting my swimming things, though, I slipped out through our gate and waited in the quietness of the lane.
And it was without doubt worth making that extra effort, as I had a very humbling and spiritual start to the day.