Happy Burma!

March 17, 2014

Happy New Year!  Happy Birthday! (It was mine recently.) Happy Burma! (They finally let me back in, but don't let that fool you; the military still calls all the shots there, and Aung San Suu Kyi, the great lady, while admirable in many ways, is still a big disappointment if you happen to be a Burmese Muslim: more on all this later.) Happy St Paddy's Day! Happy almost Spring! (Though you'd barely know that here in Toronto, where it is still freezing.)

Well, judging from the list of greetings, it's clear that I have failed to keep up with my "blog posts". I am obviously not a blogger. I am an occasional poster of thoughts and a bit o news, nothing more. I am even having trouble putting up regular Facebook posts, which is pathetic, considering that some people cannot seem to shut up on Facebook. And Twitter? Tweet tweet tweet! Isn't that enough? Tweet! In theory, I admire the usefulness of these social media platforms, but in practice, I always seem to be out of the country in an internet difficult area or housecleaning or having a pillow fight when it occurs to me: Oh yeah, I should be blogging. Then I watch the news or take a bath instead. And how do I hook my social media accounts to this, my unblogged blog? I don't know. How do you fix a vacuum cleaner or get to the moon? Ask me about metaphor, or Burma.

Everyone inside calls it Myanmar. Which is an interesting sign of the times. While the military is neither forgiven for their crimes and certainly impossible to forget (seeing as they take up most seats in Parliament), the people have chosen, at least in public, to give them a pass. On the surface, things LOOK busy--so many cars, and SO MANY NEW FOREIGNERS with international development degrees!! and with that youthful-white-in-SE-Asia-ability to get shit-faced drunk and ridiculous-looking. (That is a brief summary of the Alliance Francaise party in Yangon; none of them call it Rangoon; they may not have known that it ever was called Rangoon) --things look "better," more 'developed', but underneath the traffic jams and the plastic tea shop chairs, the economic situation is possibly worse than it's been for many Burmese business people and the man and woman in the street are angry about many things, especially about how the image and smell of prosperity remains very remote from their own lives. Oh: and small children are still dying of malnutrition and easily preventable diseases, just in case you thought that was all over . . .  I am working on a new essay about all of this (God, yes, she's going to write about Burma AGAIN, and probably lose her new found freedom to actually go there), about some remarkable people I met, about the grace and charm and kindness of so many Burmese people--I fell in love all over again, hopelessly--about the wackiness of my return to that country which has affected me for so many years, even when I wasn't allowed to go there. It started out with a slightly disastrous and oddly colonial affair: a big quite English literary festival in Mandalay. It was surreal, and wonderful, to be back in a country where my books had been banned for so long, reading from those same books. 

Here I am with some of the women who came to hear Aung San Suu Kyi speak at the literary festival. Not that she spoke to them at all. (I'll save that for my essay, but I have to say: it was sad. Not a single word in Burmese. How things have changed indeed.) They are also writers and poets from Mandalay. The red flag with the gold (fighting) peacock on it is National League for Democracy flag---Daw Suu's party.

Look at how beautiful all the thamins are! The longyis--mine is not Burmese but from Cambodia, across the border from Sisaket, Thailand.

Some day, I will post ONCE A WEEK here and have thousands of readers. Haha. Until then, it's just you and me, friend . . .  Please see my thrilling upcoming events if you're about to be in Ottawa or Moncton or Toronto any time soon . . .