Ringing in the Myanmar New Year

By Azariah Coppin
May 4, 2018

Kyaikhto, pronounced “Jai-toe,” is a town of simple, yet entrancing, scenery filled with locals who share a collective appetite for celebration. 

To the north are mountains lining the background with insurmountable majesty. Trees and foliage thick with lush greens and verdant bushes abound the streets, especially adjoining the street on which I walk to my humble abode. With a post office, museum, two temples, and pagodas a plenty, Kyaikhto certainly has its own unique landscape of communal settings. Here too are great restaurants for ordering ohn-no-khao-swe (coconut noodles), mohinga (considered the national dish of Myanmar), or even a simple order of palata (fried deliciousness). Convenient shopping stores line every major intersection, mercifully covered under a tropical shade.   

A park in Kyaikhto
A recreation park in Kyaikhto

Since my swearing-in as an official Peace Corps Volunteer amongst the 31 Americans of the MM3 group, I’ve taken the initial steps towards integrating into a new world. The middle of April marks in Myanmar, what is known as “Thingyan,” or Water Festival. Coinciding with the Myanmar New Year, it is a time for reflection and repose; discarding the remains of the past year through water-throwing, in an attempt to start anew. Thingyan is a complete whirlwind of live entertainment, delicious food, and lots of wet activity. 

Azi with one of his counterpart teachers experiencing Water Festival
Azi and one of his counterparts at the Water Festival in Kyaikhto

I was fortunate to partake in a few Thingyan festivities alongside two of my fellow Volunteers, Connor and Paul. Together the three of us, with the help of one of Connor’s school teachers, performed a traditional Thingyan dance routine that allowed all the inhabitants of Kyaikhto to take in the full view of its newest foreign arrivals. As I shook my padauk (Thingyan flower) on my female dance partner, I caught a glimpse of smiling faces brightened with curiosity. Though I would characterize my own performance as somewhat in need of extra practice, I can’t help but feel proud of all of us for our readiness to showcase ourselves and for the people of Kyaikhto to eagerly embrace us. I’m more confident now that my two years of service in Kyaikhto will be both a fulfilling and promising adventure; loaded with plenty of dancing, enticing music, incredible food, and welcoming people.

Azariah Coppin

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