“How can I capture Burma in words, as it has captured me?” This was the mantra question that played through my mind last December during the first of three happy and exciting weeks we spent in Burma. Beyond being one of the most photogenic places on planet Earth, Burma touched me in ways I don’t yet understand. There are things that could explain this affinity, like the enduring sweetness of the people or that the towns and cities have not been spoiled by the sudden world wide explosion of growth that makes most places look more and more alike. Although these are good explanations, there is something indefinable in the air. Burma is what it is, not trying to be something else. It remains whatever the current government names it (Myanmar) or does to it. Currently it isn’t madly pursuing the global hunger for MORE. Perhaps what Burma can better be defined by is by what isn’t there.
I hadn’t seen a billboard, heard a loudspeaker or been in a traffic jam even in the capital at rush hour. I hadn’t seen a smokestack, sports car, or a super highway. There are probably a thousand other things missing that give Burma this quality. It’s a time machine that is set in the 1940’s in some places and in the 15th c. in others. There’s time here to simply be, to live life, not to try to catch up to it. It feels good.
One can see “development” around the corner. Burma will change. The Burmese will rid themselves of their brutal dictatorship, be free from fear, have better health care, schools, and perhaps have a real university once again. There will probably also be more cars, bluejeans, and taller buildings. I just hope that they will still be able to see the Milky Way, breathe the air and will still want to meet at the local pagoda on Sunday to play and pray. For now, I just thank my lucky stars I discovered Burma and wish these sweet people happiness.