All of our experiences in life, both past and future, are born of our encounters in the present. One of those stories is told here by Ryota Nakamura of Mitsubishi Corporation (MC), a young man who is currently on assignment in Myanmar, where he is focused every day on the challenges of his job and his personal mission to give something back to his new community.
Hello! Spring has arrived, and I'm sure that as I once did, many Japanese professionals are beginning new lives in strange and unfamiliar lands. I first came to Myanmar in 2013, and even though my assignment was purely for the purpose of learning the language, I was full of apprehensions.
But once I actually began living here in Yangon and experiencing the Burmese culture, I came to appreciate all of its charms and its extremely friendly people. One time, when I accidently left my umbrella in a taxi, the driver drove all the way back to the restaurant where he had dropped me off to return it to me. Wanting to discover more about this wonderful country, I decided to enter the priesthood!
Almost all Burmese people are Theravada Buddhists, and men enter the priesthood twice during their lives. So with my head duly shaved and body clad in the traditional Kesa (monk's robe), I entered my local Buddhist temple for 12 days. My head stung with razor nicks, but when I caught a glimpse of myself in a mirror, I couldn't help but think, "Wow, I'm actually a monk now!"
The training involved meditating for almost an entire day, after which we went out into the town to beg for alms. Some drivers actually pulled over when they saw us to give us a few coins, and the entire experience struck home to me just how deeply Burmese values are rooted in religion. With my bare feet not accustomed to gravel roadways, walking was a painful chore, but the memories of my time as a monk are something that will always hold a special place of reverence in my heart.
After my training was over, I developed a much better understanding of the Burmese people. Acquaintances would say to me, "You're one of us now," which made me so happy and grateful that I had entered the priesthood.
One thing that I have learned here in Myanmar, is that whenever I meet a local person, I must conduct myself respectfully and courteously, because at times, all of my fellow Japanese will be judged based on my behavior. Conversely, I have come to truly love the Burmese people, because so many of them are kind and decent human beings. From here on, I intend to cherish each and every encounter I make here in Myanmar, and I am determined to help in any way I can to make this country an even richer one.