As Aye Chen Nyein’s paints the Buddhist flag on her cheek for a celebration, her faith strengthens through technology
In Myanmar, people don't use Facebook like most other people do around the world. Instead of sharing photos and updates about their own lives, it's more often used as a way to reshare the things they are interested in. For Aye Chen Nyein (22), it's a great way to spread her love of Buddhism.
With smartphones only recently becoming widely available in Myanmar, it has been interesting to see how this new technology is used and adapted. Since most people don't have an e-mail account, there are businesses set up solely to create fake e-mail addresses and help people setup their own Facebook account. Real names are rarely used, and many people refuse to post photos of themselves for fear (realistic or not) of having their identity stolen.
However, Aye Chen Nyein and her friends are more internet savvy than most, using many of the popular apps around the world, such as Facebook and Instagram, and also the ones more popular locally, such as Viber. So, it makes sense that they would use at least one of these platforms to communicate about something that ties them together.
"Buddhism is more popular for my generation than for my parents. Our friends get together at the pagoda in the evenings. Before, only families would go," Aye Chen Nyei explained.
Every year around the time of the Tazaungdaing Festival, which celebrates the end of the rainy season (held on the full moon day of the eighth month of the Myanmar calendar), she volunteers her time every day to collect donations for the monks who live in a local monastery. With a metal bowl in hand and a rock inside to make noise when shaken, she holds it out for drivers coming down the street, encouraging them to leave a bit of money for the monks. These days, she even reaches out on social media for support.
"I like going to do good deeds, going to the pagoda to change the flowers and water in respect to Buddha. Our mind will be peaceful more and more with meditation."