Tuesday, September 4, 2012
To meet with clinic staff and tour a village for a potential project, we drove 4 hours north of Yangon. The driver of the van, both provided by the Christian organization partner, had from my perspective shocking driving habits. Though we drove on a wide new four lane freeway with hardly any traffic to speak of, our driver gave no room to motos, bicycles, or pedestrians we happened to pass. Instead of simply moving into the open lane to the left and passing safely, he honked his horn obnoxiously for great distances and then shaved past the moto, bicycle or pedestrian. I was perplexed and dismayed by this behavior.
Since returning from our trip, I've been reading a book called "Finding George Orwell in Burma". The author is an American journalist writing under the pseudonym Emma Larkin. As a young man, George Orwell took a post in Burma for the British army. One of Orwell's earliest books is called Burmese Days drawn from his 5 years living in Burma. In Emma's conversations with locals, she recorded how the Burmese love to read and they especially love George Orwell. With Burmese Days as part one, the Burmese consider Animal Farm and 1984 as parts two and three of a trilogy about Burma. His books are banned but supposedly there are still copies to be found hidden in the country. When I finish Finding George Orwell I am going to read "Letters from Burma," a collection of articles written for a Japanese newspaper by Aung San Suu Kyi after one of her releases from house arrest. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 and is the leader for human rights and democracy in Burma, just recently elected to parliament.
One week in Myanmar was plenty for me. Myanmar is even poorer than Cambodia and we could certainly feel that even as visitors. When we returned from Japan, Cambodia felt unpleasant in a number of ways compared to all the wonderful things we found and enjoyed while in Japan. But when we returned to Cambodia from Myanmar, Cambodia felt so pleasant. Cambodians are friendly, there are so many more restaurants and really good coffee, and the light in Phnom Penh is better to draw and paint by. It's all relative...