Posts Tagged ‘totalitarianism’

A sign at the entrance to a pagoda complex in Yangon. Entrance fees would be fine if they were paid to the monastery and not directly into the government's pocket. Myanmar. Burma. This land is two separate places. Myanmar is the place where the government has fixed an unrealistic exchange rate, so we must purchase bundles of 1000 kyat notes on the street, counting each stack and griping over every tear or hole. The only travel for us is on expensive buses with obnoxious music videos on continuous loop, no other transportation allowed for foreigners. Government checkpoints at the entrances to touristic zones demand US dollars for passage; faded or folded bills are rejected firmly. We are forbidden from straying from these areas; our bus windows look out on empty, dry scrublands as we are shuttled to the next town with guest houses licensed to admit foreigners. (more…)

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Negotiable exchange rate

Caleb found this internet cafe. His theory is that some westerner said "you should name your internet cafe Virus Free," and this is what came out. It certainly represents the many contradictions evident in Burma.

As a traveler in Myanmar it is easy to have one’s expectations confirmed. Abysmal infrastructure, propaganda and censorship tells me people are oppressed. Nourishment, internet cafes, shining pagodas and endless smiles makes life not seem so bad. Indeed, a traveler cannot explain what life is like for the diverse people of Burma — so in any observation I must consider what I can and cannot see as a visitor. (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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Considering Burma: Equality

WWII never completely ended in Burma. Today, Burma consists of an oppressive central government and hundreds of armed groups and militias along the periphery. Although today fighting is sporadic and largely affects only isolated areas, thousands of refugees remain outside of Burma. (more…)

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