Monday, April 10, 2017

In Myanmar Dogs Eat Rice

I hesitated long before writing my final blog entry on (and from) Myanmar. The realisation that I will soon leave seems to have paralysed my ability to describe my feelings and sort my thoughts which frenetically cross my mind these past weeks. Will I write pages or just a few paragraphs? There are so many things to say but so much I just want to keep to myself. Everyone has their own experience. "How was it?", I know many will ask. There are no simple answers.

In Myanmar Dogs Eat Rice

In Myanmar, for breakfast, stray dogs eat rice which is prepared daily by benevolent residents and is placed on banana leaves and left in the streets. Street dogs can be found only in a few countries in Europe. They are lucky if a kind-hearted person gives them water or some leftovers. In Myanmar the majority of street dogs are calm. In those countries in Europe where dogs roam freely on the streets their presence is often a menace. 

I believe the paragraph above makes a good introduction to my last article after almost three years spent in the country. 

A while ago I remember reading an article in a local newspaper about the impressions of a Myanmar woman during a visit in the US. While she was mostly impressed by the economic development in the West, here I was mostly struck by the cultural differences. Who could actually blame a foreigner for being shocked by the betel nut chewers spitting the red 'juice' wherever they pleased or about the smiling yes of the locals which actually turns out to be a definite no. One's experiences in a country surely depend on various factors and situations. For me, during these past three years, Myanmar was a carousel of feelings. 

I will surely miss the Myanmar people and their smiles! I made them laugh and they made me angry. They made me smile and I felt for them. I encouraged them and they surprised me. They made me cry and I admired them. I felt their warmth and at the same time I felt the cultural divide. 

I will always remember the Yangonites in their surroundings. That is why I will dearly miss the streets of Yangon's downtown where a big part of the local's life is spent. I spent a big part of my time exploring the streets of downtown Yangon discovering its people with their habits and culture. I will miss the safety I felt on the streets of Yangon at any hour of the day.

In a few months, at most a year, the urban landscape will change even more so than it has in recent years. I may not recognise it any longer. Actually the change started a few years back. Just the other day I passed by a new shop in downtown which offered a variety of Chinese products in an air-conditioned space that are actually similar to the ones sold on the street. The prices displayed in the shop are very competitive. How long will the local street sellers last? They have a difficult life trading on the streets and the Yangon municipal authorities become increasingly restrictive about their presence in the streets.

I will walk these streets for one more time tomorrow on my last day in Myanmar. This will be my chance to say good-bye to the passers-by, houses, shops, kids, flowers in the pots, birds in small cages or on the electric wires, buildings, markets, fruits... This is Myanmar. 

However, in this commotion on the busy streets, I noticed a change in people's behaviour. At least in Yangon. They are now used to foreigners compared to 2014, the year I arrived. They are rushing around discovering new possibilities, trying to seize any opportunity they can to provide the best for their families. They are more like us now. Or am I more like them? 

I will miss my Myanmar friends, each of them with their dreams and hopes. I admire them for their curiosity, talent and perseverance.

This is not a farewell. Actually I did not wish to have a proper farewell. The majority of friends told me that I will come back. Maybe. One day. But it will be to rediscover Myanmar. 



  1. Life is so difficult in Myanmar these days, I had watched in the news. Still the people are very brave and energetic. Its very good to see that and to read your blog. You people are awesome.

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