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Posts Tagged ‘pointsofview’

Ye Khin’s poem

Ye Khin* is a gentle and shy man. He is in his early thirties and ethnic Karen. Ryan and I meet him on our journey through Eastern Burma where our paths cross for a few days.  The last time we see Ye Khin, he waits with us for the bus and we end up talking about the internet. Out of the blue he asks us: “How can I say something so the whole world will hear it?”

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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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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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“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” –Marcel Proust

I have just learned to say, “How are you?” in Bangla, and I practice on a young Muslim woman dressed in black from head to toe. “Balo, balo” she says energetically smiling at me. I sit down next to her on a cement wall along the road. I ask for the name of the very young baby in her arms. “Aki” she says. From other gesturing I gather that the baby is only one month old.

Caleb, Sanjoy and I continue our walk up to the lake, enjoying a pleasant stroll and a beautiful view. On our way back down, I spot the woman still sitting with her baby and hand her a small sprig of marigold flowers that we found along the way. She starts talking to Sanjoy, who translates that she has invited us to lunch at her house. (more…)

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In Chittagong, we decided to do things a little differently and take a bit of a leap of faith. As we are leaving the Buddhist temple in the city, a young man approaches us and introduces himself as Sanjoy, a student who rents a small room in the temple complex as he pursues his studies in English Literature. His home is in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, a Buddhist and tribal area where we want to visit. He says he works as an occasional tour guide for the region.

Although we usually are hesitant to use guides, there is an immediate positive connection with Sanjoy; his sincerity is palpable when he says he felt close to us as we were sitting in the meditation hall. We have lunch and plan with him, he helps us get permits, and a few days later we are on our way to his stunning, hilly home town of Banderban. (more…)

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Tell me about Bangladesh: How is it different from India? This is the question that everyone from home asks me. In our first destination, Sylhet, we find that the lungi is deeply in style, and this combined with the pervasive stares makes us feel like we are transported back to Tamil Nadu. A new development, however, is that whenever we stop to do anything on the street, a crowd of 10 or 20 men gathers within moments to watch. Look, the foreigners are trying to buy water at the store. Look, the foreigners are arguing with a baby-taxi driver. Look, the foreigners are drinking tea, are visiting a tailor, are admiring a shop full of saris and lungis.

These crowds are unnerving for sure, but deeply benign. A disagreement over price can be easily resolved when people from the crowd intervene on behalf of fairness. A language barrier in rickshaw directions can be overcome when the crowd member with the best English steps forward to interpret. (more…)

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Bangladesh Waters


My birthday included a very exciting excursion to the ghats of Chittagong. We quickly gathered a following of curious locals wondering what in the world we were doing there. “Where are you going?” people occasionally asked us. We weren’t going anywhere; everywhere we wandered was endlessly fascinating. I mean, look at those pirate boats! (more…)

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