February 26th, 2003

I'm Alive

In reading what I've written, its divides cleanly into the 'good' and the 'bad', but the experience left me with nothing of the sort. For the time being it'll have to remain like this, and maybe you can put the pieces together in a way that makes sense for you. I'll try and come back in a in few hours and see if I can try to make it make more sense, and I'll review all my notes (thanks linda, journal is a life saver) to try and build a coherent and reasonably comprehensive story.



Good
I don't know what I was expecting, but Myanmar wasn't it. It was however the kind of place that made me stay (yes quite by choice) twice as long as I had expected. Right up to the maximum I could stay without running a serious risk of missing my plane to Fiji. Now that says something. I skipped the full moon party that everybody raves (pun intended) about, and just kept bouncing from extended one on one conversations that may have been possible only because we could be so sure that what we would could not come back to haunt us, in a way I've never done with anyone before.

They are so friendly its genuinely confusing. Why has a 70 year old who speaks not a single word of english followed me around all night while I'm at a Buddhist rock concert? Why is he following me home at 3:30am? He just wants to be sure I'm alright. I've got lots of those experiences. In defense of my people, we can't easily spot who is the confused outsider. When we do I think we're pretty helpful, without expecting much in return. But we are content to point in the right direction, we don't then walk you 8 blocks, and bring you by or house for a quick lunch.


Bad
The country is dirt poor. Most folks are farmers who plow fields with an oxcart. Most homes are 1 room bamboo thatched huts. Garbage and open sewers line the streets. Food is sold in open markets covered in flies, and sanitation as I know it, is non-existent.

The country is beautiful, but the views are often limited by a haze from constant slash-and-burn farming fires. The people have in one lifetime seen 3 major political changes, and a 4th seems to be ready to drop. The current government fears this and keeps people living in a state of constant fear of being seen talking to westerners. Their govt is openly corrupt, and locals have told me that speaking about this endangered them and their families.

Many are desperate to learn english, so that they can make a better life (and being predominantly Buddhist, next life) for them and their families. They do not lead simple little fairy tale peasant lives. Every problem they expressed was fundamentally identical to western ones, but the hill was steeper and slipperier than the versions that I know. Despite all of this they were (overly?) accepting that this was their lot in life and they would just try to do good so that the next life would be better.

While there I taught at 2 english classes.

Learned a new way to play pool (using a deck of cards, to add an element of luck)

Watched young children dance and play while older men butchered a dog for food