Sunday, April 6, 2008

Ok, Dude-Per Your Request

The message came through to me via an email to my mother. My brother, Dude, has requested I update my blog with more pictures. Ok, Ok—I get the hint. I’ve been meaning to write about Myanmar, but really needed some time to reflect.

Myanmar is not an easy place.

The Schwedagon Pagoda-largest and most beautiful of the Buddhist Temples in Myanmar

An upscale highrise apartment building in Yangon

It is a land filled with smiling Buddhists who struggle under an oppressive government led by a ruthless military junta. If I remember correctly, in 1990 the popular vote opted overwhelmingly for a change in government but the junta has to date refused to turn over power. The opposition leader, referred to very quietly, if at all, as “the Lady,” has been under house arrest or imprisoned for most of her adult life. I could go on and on and on.

How these people smile is beyond my western mind. Smiling always. And not a slight, nod-with-your-head greeting to a stranger—a big, beaming, full-bore grin from ear to ear. The Burmese people are happy.

How? They have to cram sardine-style into any public conveyance to get from place to place,

or they walk. The more affluent city family may have a bicycle, or even a motor scooter.

Whole families- 3, 4, or 5 at a time- can be seen riding on the back of one. The ground floor of their homes is usually packed earth. They have electricity on alternate days (if they are lucky).If they live away from a city, they have no electricity, their water supply is the local pond created when the fields were made into rice paddies, and their restroom is behind the hill behind the house.

The temperature at sunrise in April hover around 90F and go up throughout the day. They smile, they smile, they smile.

They are a dirt-poor people, who go without food in order to buy gold leaf to adorn their Buddhist shrines.

They live in silenced fear that the person standing next to them in line is a government informer. They can’t open up, they can’t speak their mind in public, they can’t complain. But they smile. They don’t have the simplest things I would consider necessary and basic for survival, and yet they are the most peaceful and kind group I’ve ever encountered. Really made me stop and think. I’m still thinking.

Dude- I meant to post pics, not get into deep reflection—so here you go…..this is for you!
An open air convenience store outside Yangon

The famous reclining Buddha with me for scale-taken by Gran as I was taking picture of her taking a picture of me.....

A birthday girl all dressed up to visit the temple

Another convenience store-there are lots of them around- very convenient

Another reclining Buddha--although this one struck me as more Mae West than calm and resting

Harvested teak awaiting loading onto ships

Buddhist nun at meditation

E alongside her Day of Birth shrine at Schwedagon--she's Monday, a Tiger
An d, lest you think I've totally lost my sense of humor, a sign outside the reclining Buddha temple just tickled me....