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Archive for February, 2010

A prayer for the long-term traveler: Let me always remember that this world rewards my attention handsomely. Beware the whirlpool of meaninglessness that lurks when I lose sight of the horizon, when the world’s endless mosaic before me seems daunting and impossibly demanding. There is a hazard to travel over the long term: that it become a chronicling or mere tracking of the “galvanic twitches of the eternal pointless present,” as Wallace Stegner memorably puts it. Too many people and sights that become interesting in the same way, too little agency to act beyond my prescribed role as a stranger in these contexts. But I have faith that, as I keep learning about my surroundings and keep my eyes open to new kinds of surprises, this experience can be endlessly engaging. (more…)

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In Burma, it’s all a little magical. Everyday life is so bizarre, so full of contradictions, that it feels as if the very idea of reality were coming loose. And that may well be the case in Burma. More than once during our travels, I think of Alice in Wonderland. I’ve fallen into a rabbit hole, clearly, I continue to fall, and there is no telling how deep this hole is. (more…)

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Michele’s lips are moving, but frankly, I can’t understand a word she is saying. After filling out reams of paper work at immigration, it took us 45 minutes by taxi from the Yangon airport to the city center, where we are now standing on a sidewalk trying to decide on a hotel. A somewhat tedious task at the best of times, it is near impossible to communicate our preferences today because of  the staggering background noise. Alas, we realize – we are standing right in front of a generator! I scan the street for a safe haven from the noise, but as far as my eyes can see, rumbling generators fill the streets with their sputtering roar.

Generator powered neon bulb gives light to the street vendor cooking 'smoked' chicken.

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We’ve returned from Myanmar/Burma, and we’re excited to catch you up on our travels! Check out “Our Route” to see where we’ve been.

Burma greets me with a pervasive sense of palpable decay, from the crumbling sidewalks revealing open sewers to the tattered bank notes that remain in circulation, held together by tape and staples. A building that I would place in the 1970s, green paint faded to a splotchy turquoise, plaster peeling and pockmarked, bears its birth year engraved high on its facade: 1995. The climate and the elements conspire with human neglect to fade all things human-made into a static, sleepy gray. Against this backdrop, it is easy to imagine the surreal and absurd struggles of power and its pathologies; it is only a small stretch to see the ghostly residues of manias past and present drift across this lifescape. (more…)

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