Team Building in Yangon with National Trade Unions Congress

Yangon Cultural Challenge on 29th November 2014

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On the 29th November Making Teams facilitated its first ever team building event in Yangon, Myanmar. Our Team building client from Singapore had requested an amazing chase style event with cultural and activity challenges introducing them to Burmese culture and to the former capital city of Yangon.

The event was led by Mr Martin Lavis, Making Teams lead facilitator for over four years who travelled to Yangon, two days earlier and met with two colleagues to inspect the locations and prepare the program for NTUC.

The preparation included visiting local markets, temples and well known landmarks within the main city area close by to the client’s hotel.  After inspection the following locations were chosen for the event.

  • Sule Pagoda – The administrative heart of the city, home to magnificent buildings from the colonial era.
  • Independence Park – a beautiful green oasis in the heart of the urban environment
  • Botatahung Pagoda – an amazing ornate Buddhist temple, close by to the river
  • St Mary’s cathedral – a wonderful church relating to the colonial era and across from the head office of a major newspaper
  • Bogyoke Aung Sung Market – Am amazing mix of gold, jewels, cloths, souvenirs and more!

Challenges were prepared for each location and the group decided to travel in one coach and take on each other at each location with the winning receiving points for each activity.

The event began early at 8.30 am to avoid the busy traffic and after meeting with the group we travelled the short distance to Sule Pagoda. At the Pagoda, the red and blue teams received a set of pictures to landmarks located around this major intersection point. The task was to identify each picture and name the locations and return with the answers to the facilitators.

The red team was particularly clever and enlisted the help of local postcard sellers and they were able to identify most of the locations within a few minutes, whilst the blue team set of around the area to visit each location and returned with the answers.

Next we moved on to Independence Park, home to the independence statue and beautiful gardens.
Our guide from Myanmar2go tours (who assisted with the event preparation), lead the next two challenges.

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Every morning, after taking a shower, the Burmese people apply powder to their faces, this powder is known as Tanaka powder is renowned to be good for smooth clean skin.

The challenge was to create a facial design using the powder that incorporated Singapore with Myanmar on their cheeks. They also had to use the traditional method of rubbing the Tanaka stick onto the hard stone to create the powder, apply water and then apply to their face with a brush and their fingers.

Each team came up with their concept and the points were awarded to the blue team, who incorporated the concept the best visually.

After the Tanaka activity, teams then had a short lesson in reading Burmese language and had to memorize the phrase around the independence monument by heart. First they were taught the phrase, then practised in their group and then finally presented the phrase to our Burmese facilitator who judged them based on their accuracy, fluency and pronunciation. The red team prevailed to win this challenge.

The phrase was the first line on the independence monument which refers to when the country became Myanmar in on 4th January 1948.

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From the park we travelled alongside the river past historic colonial locations such as the Strand hotel and we arrived at the Botatahung Pagoda, one of many magnificent temples in Yangon.

This Pagoda is well known for its giant golden spire and it is also home to a large iron cast bell from the British colonial days, which the British tried to remove but couldn’t due to its size and weight before leaving from what was the Burma.

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Outside the Pagoda there are many shops which sell the traditional offering to the statue of good fortune. This offering consists of a bowl, with a large coconut and decorated with green, unripe bananas all around it, and the teams challenge was to make the offering which they would present to the statue.

Teams were judged on the presentation and attention to detail of the offering before entering the temple and presenting the offering. Team Red were judged to have made the best offering plate.

Once this had been completed, the teams received 5 questions that they had to find answers to relating to the temple, which included ringing the bell in the traditional way with a stick being held horizontally rather than vertically, this was the deciding factor in awarding the winning blue team with the points.

After the Pagoda, we travelled a short distance into the city to St Mary’s Cathedral, a central point for worship during the colonial days and now for the Christians of Yangon.

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The teams received a set of questions and had to explore around the exterior of the church to find the answers. Some of the answers referred to the church itself, others were to do with the surrounding areas so teams were advised to look around and be observant during the activity.

Both teams performed admirably, located all the answers and the deciding factor was one minor piece of detail on one inscription, where a word had been missed out by the red team , so the blue team had fought back to win the challenge and draw level on points, 3 challenges each.

From St Mary’s cathedral we headed to the highlight location for the event, the amazing Bogyoke Aung Sung Market where three final challenges were set and where we would find out who the winners would be of the Yangon Cultural Challenge. After 6 challenges, both teams were level on points so Bogyoke Aung Sung Market, would decide the winning team, with 3 challenges left.

On the way to the market, the teams were given a short brief, an envelope containing money and then they were shown the items that they had to purchase in the market.

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Their aim, simply to purchase as many of the items as possible, at the best possible prices by bartering with stall holders and returning with the items (and change!) within 30 minutes. They also had to observe and memorize the items they had to buy before leaving the bus. The criteria would be based on the number of items they purchase and the amount they paid for them, and this would prove important for the final outcome.

Once we arrived at the market, the teams departed the bus and went off on their Burmese Market Barter race against the clock at a brisk pace.

Teams also had selected one male and one female to dress up in traditional Burmese style costume and walk around the market for fifteen minutes before presenting themselves to the facilitators for the best dressed couple for judgement.

Whilst the other team members were shopping each couple chose their clothes at a local fabric stall and then changed into traditional dress before parading through the market for all to see.

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In Yangon today, most people still dress in the traditional style of Buttoned blouses and sarongs for ladies and shirts and sarongs for men and this evident to see throughout the streets.

The participants were judged on their appearance and which couple appeared more Burmese and the winners were chosen by our local guide, the blue team couple.

Once the other participants had returned with their shopping we headed off to the final challenge, papaya salad making, Yangon style! In Thailand they use a mortar and pestle, in Myanmar they use their hands, to make this well known , spicy dish and the teams would first be shown how to make it and then they had to make the salad for the stall holder, who would be the judge of the best tasting papaya salad.

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This final challenge in the heart of the market provided great excitement and intrigue for the participants and the locals alike, with a crowd of people looking on as our teams made and then presented their dishes for tasting. The winner was decided based on taste and Hafiz the team leader for the red team made the best som-tam. This meant that after 8 challenges the scores were level 4 challenges each and that the shopping would decide the winners of the event.
During lunch at a local Shan restaurant, Making Teams facilitators reviewed each teams shopping and the deciding factor was the number of items brought and the amount of money spent by each team.

The blue team had bartered and bought the most successfully and were presented with the winning team trophy of Tanaka powder and stone, for the Yangon Cultural challenge team building event with Making Teams .

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Testimonials from the participants:

  • “The event was well run and facilitated from start to finish.”
  • “We learned a lot about local life and culture of the Burmese people.”
  • “Making Teams organization was fantastic through our 3 days in Myanmar.”
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