Before it is ruined

2010 holiday 2929

”Burma? We gotta go there before it is ruined!”

That is, before all those picturesque snapshots of poverty are disrupted by electricity poles and shoes and, well, any sign that this is not the 19th century any longer.

Granted, I also reached for my camera when I saw women doing laundry in the river, or a group of schoolkids wearing traditional longyis and shoulder bags. I loved the horse carts and the crumbling houses and candlelight in the temples and the rickety bridges and the labourers unloading vegetables from boats and the drying laundry and country boys ordained as novice monks.

As my two-year-stint in Yangon is coming to an end, it is amazing to see what has changed. What has been lost. Yes, some of the charm will be gone. Even some of the wooden temples might get bulldozed. Glass and concrete hotels are being erected. The taxis are not falling apart anymore when you slam the door. I smile and cringe and have mixed feelings. Skyrocketing prices, rudeness, crime creeping in, yes.

But it is not for outsiders to decide that it would be prettier to keep a country as it was before…. just for our time travel playground. It is theirs to keep, cherish, develop…. or even ruin… or do we really wish hunger, poverty, struggle, lack of freedom on others?

Yes, you gotta come before it is changed.


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