day 157: changes

If you want to know what it feels like to walk around in a village in Myanmar do the following: Picture a completely naked man or woman walking around on the streets. Imagine what the people around would do. First their chaws would drop open, they would stare. If this completely naked woman or man came up to one of them to sit down in their restaurant or ask for the way, this person would look around in help for the others what to do and then start laughing and giggeling. That´s about the reaction when you go inside villages in Myanmar. The second reaction after the shock is kindness and smiles. Many people get out their few words of english, keep on giggeling and probably take a picture of you on their smartphones.

My friend Becca and me bought little motorcycles and went north-west to the Chin mountains, right by the Indian border. Guide books don´t mention this region, there is nothing of interest. Tourists don´t find their way there.

One night Becca and me were walking through the tiny mountain village Kyaw. People´s eyes were widening as usual, when they saw us, we could hear giggeling coming out of the houses. Then a motorcycle stopped, it was the school teacher. He welcomed us and came to have dinner with us. His english was limited. He looked around, he massaged his hands, he smiled at us. If he drank beer, I asked him. He said no. If he wanted dinner. He already had dinner, he said. After a while he got out his mobile phone. The screen saver was a picture of a lady dressed in yellow. The school teacher smiled. „She is our leader“, he said. It was a picture of Aung San Suu Kyi, the freedom fighter who had been under arrest for 15 years under the military dictatorship. He pointed at her picture and said: „She has an iron will.“ And I could see he was full of pride. If he went to vote in November this year, I asked. „Yes. Everybody went,“ he said and nodded many times with a smile.

I thought of Austria, where voting sometimes is just a burden. And I looked at the school teacher of Kyaw who had voted for the first time in his life. After 50 years of military dictatorship things are slowly changing in Myanmar. The first steps are (more or less) free elections and having a once arrested freedom fighter as a mobile screen saver.


About Michaela Krimmer

35, anthropologist, Austrian, female

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