This has been an amazing journey from charming Laos to turbulent, colorful and confusing Myanmar. They have a "fur piece" to go to meet the twenty-first century head-on and will lose their unique culture in the process. Is their government really moving toward the first glimmers of democracy or is it merely a ruse to keep the revolution from coming? Memories of children's bright smiles and dirty clothes, sunsets shot with rosy fruit-like colors, water smooth as glass and fields tended like a cherished babe. Floating gardens lush with produce and those iconic fisherman on Inle graceful as a dancer rowing one-legged for their sustenance. Oxen pulling carts and women walking miles with a hundred pounds of rice on their heads, men plowing fields manned by their own strengths alone and harvesting sugarcane with short and crude stone -age tools. Sixty years ago this country had a literacy rate of 100%.
Nuns raising hordes of orphans and more monks than can be counted begging alms in the early morning. Flowers everywhere and trees blurring the reality of the landscape of poverty. With the wave of a hand or a smile with eye- contact bringing such gleaming joy to the faces of seniors who appear decades older than they are or kids practicing their English, open, friendly, confident, looking forward, dreaming of such common-place ways of the life, we rarely even ponder.
I sang with school children and they loved the butt-jiggling Hokey- Pokey. Cooked over a charcoal-wood fired wok, the best eggplant and chayote tempura. Ate fermented tea leaf salads. And meditated with two noble monks who remarked on my practice. They taught me how to count beads ( not worry ). I climbed stupas and temples and saw more pagodas than I thought existed. Monkeys are about as common as the feral dogs and cats. ( Definitely getting a Rabies shot for my next travels ). My heart breaks to leave them and my fears for them are huge, but they are not me.
I am again reminded how grateful and proud we need to be to live in a place that is free of thought and speech and mostly free from fear.Our world isn't like this in Myanmar.