The boarder to Bruma had just opened after their recent military dictatorship had lost its power and we were of course headed over there to check out the place and to meet the locals. Who were these people who had lived five decades in an ex-military hibernation state? We soon found out that the common people were very humble, kind, polite, reserved and suspicious of everyone else. It took us a long time to warm up to these people and I remember the family clear as day when the father finally said “hi nice to have you here” before he shouted something in Burmese that most have meant something along the lines of “come join us these foreigners are harmless”?! Suddenly we could see pairs of eyes looking at us from inside and when they’d finally mustered all their courage they nearly ran to the table where we were sitting alone in the outdoor restaurant under a textile roof. It was the wife, a couple of grown up daughters, a grandson and a grandma who came to join us. Again it was the father who decided to break the ice when he suddenly started rambling names of famous people from around the world such as George W Bush, Hilary Clinton, Rihanna, the Queen and so on and the others were not late to join in naming places they’d never visited like the USA, New York, Europe, England, London, etc. They all smiled wide showing their discoloured teeth from chewing too much betel nut and their eyes were shining bright like diamonds obviously satisfied with themselves that they knew all of these things about the world out there. I smiled cause it was contagious but I was also crying inside. I felt sorry for them and could not even remotely imagine what it must have been like to grow up in a military state and years of censorship.
After the best meal on our trip so far our adventure continued by bicycle. We’ve had the ingenious idea the other day to rent bicycles to cycle around the country. We’d been somewhat naive and hadn’t completely grasped the size of this wonderful and unexplored country. The heat was extreme which made cycling very demanding and exhausting. We resorted to hitchhiking and to our surprise it worked wonderfully, cars, as well as UTEs, trucks and buses all stopped willing to pick us up and the bicycles. After we’d realised this little trick bicycling around Burma became quiet easy and a true adventure. In this way we met all kinds of people and reached remote places we wouldn’t otherwise have been able to get to without the generosity and goodwill of all these strangers who picked us up and made our trip truly remarkable and unforgettable.
When things possibly couldn’t get much more bizarre we somehow ended up in a human operated Ferris Wheel in one of Bagan’s fun fairs, where gravitational energy of young fit boys were transferred into kinetic energy that made the wheel go round and round, and the world spin in front of us.
The surreal complexities of the country made an imprint on my soul so strong that years later I still sometimes shiver in my dreams when I witness the awakening of all these people from the Kafkaesque state of half a century. Aung San Suu Kyi I admired you then and more than ever now, you’re a truly inspirational woman, politician and human rights advocate. Walk on…