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Wednesday, 4 December 2019

Myanmar with the Kruselings

Sitting in their new chairs
Some time ago, when Petalina held their closing down sale (March 2018) I bought Luna, the oriental Kruseling character in her original fairy outfit with the modern girl jeans and jacket outfit. She changed into the modern clothes and sat in one of my doll cabinets with other small dolls. Then in August this year, I was invited to be part of a group of tutors for an educational project my university is involved in and this meant a week in Yangon, Myanmar during November. I started to wonder if the Kruseling would be a good travelling doll. It was not practical to take a Sasha doll because there would be little space in my luggage as we all had tutor resources to carry and I had very little time for any doll photography because the 5 day programme was so busy, so the travelling doll had to be small and robust (I decided my four Heather Maciak dolls who have previously travelled overseas with me would stay at home this time).

I started to look up information about Myanmar, its people and the clothes they wear, even watching videos on how to tie a longyi (the long cloth tube worn by both men and women as a long skirt). I made a t-shirt and a miniature longyi for the Kruseling doll then decided she needed a travelling companion so bought another Luna (this time in the tennis outfit) and cut the new doll's hair short (though traditionally some Myanmar boys wear their hair long tied in a top knot). I made another t-shirt and longyi, this time with slightly more fabric because for playing sport the longyi can be tied up as shorts, the length I had used for the girl's longyi didn't allow me to hitch fabric in the way shown in the videos.

I bought some brown sandals from Boneka for the pair of dolls and their Myanmar outfits were complete. I made a pair of long shorts for the boy from a scrap of denim so he had some western style clothes too.

The dolls and their spare clothes travelled in a small zip up packing cube in my hand luggage to Yangon. I eventually gave them Myanmar names: the girl is Zarni (beauty/hero) San (moon) and the boy is Thet (calm) Khin (friendly) so they haven't strayed far from their Kruseling name of Luna (moon).

Bogyoke Aung San Market, Yangon
On the first day in Yangon, a Sunday, after a morning meeting with colleagues to finalise our tutoring preparations, some of us went to Bogyoke Aung San Market in downtown Yangon to browse. The Market was formerly called Scotts Market when the British controlled Burma. It has a huge number of stalls, selling a wide range of fabric, puppets, plenty of jade and locally woven cane. I brought the two Kruselings in their bag with my camera and was delighted to find a stall which sold many woven cane items including some delightful miniature chairs which were the perfect scale for the dolls. One of them ventured out of the packing cube to try the chairs (there were 2 different styles) and my colleagues agreed that one style was better than the other style for the dolls (they were intrigued and tolerant rather than teasing about my hobby). I also bought two beautiful pieces of Indonesian fabric to make a skirt for me and a table cloth.

I didn't buy a puppet as I already have a Myanmar elephant puppet which my cousin had sent to me years ago when he and his wife visited the country and I want to see a puppet show in the country to understand more about the characters before choosing another puppet.

Puppets in the market

One of the alleyways in the market leading to fabric stalls

The central walkway of the market, surrounded by stalls

The cane stall with the miniature chairs

A doll on the counter of one stall at the entrance to the market
Back at the hotel the dolls tried out their new chairs.
Thet Khin and Zarni San in their new chairs with the two pieces of fabric I bought,
and their travelling packing cube
Thet Khin relaxing in his chair

His shorts were entirely hand-sewn, because I made them
one evening when visiting our elder daughter in early November

Zarni San wearing the t-shirt I made with her original jeans and trainers
The following morning they changed into their longyis and stood beside their chairs, with the new fabric in their own little display where they remained all week, when there was no time for doll photography.
Zarni San wearing her longyi and t-shirt

Thet Khin wearing his longyi and t-shirt

On the Thursday evening while on the way to the Rangoon Tea House in Downtown Yangon with some colleagues, we passed a shop window which had some puppets on display.

Shop window puppets and statues

After leaving them in the hotel room all week, on the Friday I took the Kruselings with me because after we had finished work some colleagues and I went on an outing we'd been looking forward to all week. The predominant religion in Myanmar is Buddhism, so Yangon has plenty of temples and pagodas. The biggest in Yangon is the Shwedagon Pagoda. We saw it at dusk as we approached, by the time the taxi dropped us by the West entrance the sun had set but that didn't mean the gold of the pagoda was diminished, it just became more dramatic against the night sky, and was well lit. There were lots of steps and escalators to get up to the Pagoda and temples, we had taken our sandals and flip flops off so climbed the stairs and travelled the escalators with bare feet.

Shwedagon Pagoda from a distance

Approaching the west entrance of the Shwedagon Pagoda at dusk

Scaffolding up the side of the West entrance of the Shwedagon Pagoda

The pinnacle of the pagoda 
The pagoda surrounded by lots of temples

The moon and the pagoda

Reflections on the pagoda, and the moon
It was tricky to find a place to photograph the dolls at the pagoda, as it was busy with people lighting candles, making offerings and saying prayers. I forget to remove their sandals, which was disrespectful.

Thet Khin and Zarni San on a pavement reflecting the golden pagoda 
Thet Khin and Zarni San near one of the temples which had plenty of seated Buddha figures

With the temple and seated Buddha figures

Posing with the Shwedagon Pagoda in the background

The following day some colleagues and I visited the Banana and Coconut market beside the river, on the way there we walked passed some boys playing football with a cane football, something we had seen at the market a few days before (cane footballs are very hard-wearing). Later that evening, at the airport, I found a woven mat and key-ring size cane ball, perfect for the dolls.

Myamnar boys playing football with a cane ball

Back at home with their new mat, chairs and cane ball

Thet Khin hitched up his longyi ready to play with his cane football

Zarni San is all ready to catch the ball
My Myanmar elephant puppet arrived in the post about 12 years ago rather unexpectedly, one of his tusks arrived in an envelope a few days later as it got lost temporarily before my cousin was able to send him to me. As soon as I saw horse puppets in the Bogyoke Aung San Market I recognised the style and decorations matched my elephant, who normally hangs quietly in my sewing room window with 2 other puppets. It seemed a good idea to introduce the elephant to the Myanmar inspired dolls.
Thet Khin and Zarni San with their elephant

The elephant has decided the ball belongs to him
The Myanmar elephant puppet closeup

Tending to their elephant
As for the Kruseling dolls: they pose well (they have 13 movable joints - even their wrists and ankles are articulated) and are well proportioned child dolls with a good head of hair. They are not too fiddly to sew for and dress. At 9 inches high they are very portable so are very satisfying as travelling dolls.


Sharon said...

What an interesting trip and the kids look like they really enjoyed themselves. I loved the photos of the Shwedagon Pagoda and the temples, they look beautiful in the dusk.

Serenata said...

Looks like you managed to fit in some enjoyable visits during your work time there which was good. The Kruselings do make good travel dolls don't they. I enjoy my two, but haven't done anything with them for a while. I like how you turned one into a boy by cutting his hair which is essentially what the original Kruseling boys are anyway, just the same mold with shorter hair.

Such interesting places to visit with fascinating history. I think you made some very good choices in 'treasures' to bring home.

Triciamj said...

What an amazing trip Anna, thank you for sharing. I have a Kruseling as well, they are good value dolls

Rachel said...

I love that you researched and made the dolls’ outfits before you travelled. The photos in the temple are wonderful. The chairs were a perfect souvenir. Your elephant puppet is so special. His articulated trunk would be very expressive in a puppet play. The Asian elephants at Taronga zoo in Sydney love playing with balls too.