So as we slowly dragged and snailed, rocked and churned, huffed and puffed our way over the Myanmarian country side, a country side of infinite beauty in its simplicity, I started analysing the fact that I felt so strongly for this country and its people. I loved them, each and every one. That was apparent already hitch hiking across the border with a Burmese man and his little daughter of five. Every single person I came upon after that confirmed the warm, fussy feeling I first had been given. Myanmar is a light version of India, it’s closer to that world than to the South East Asia that attracts British 20 year old backpackers, still in their diapers, astonished by the possibilities of cheap alcohol. I was happy to get out of Thailand, every fibre of me started vibrating again. The men wearing lungis, the beetle nut chewing and spitting, the buy-anything-you-need-right-of-the-streets, the charming men skinning a goats head, and the tiny tables being set up along the roads of Yangon as the sun sets and the bell rings for dinner time. Life is out in the streets, buy a screwdriver, underwear or a freshly caught fish while having green tea as cars are driving by, uncomfortably close. It was everything I could ever hope for of a country that’s not actually India. Forever smiling, proudly sharing, waving their hands, young as old, to us passers by on the train. Myanmar is an old culture with an old people. They are one of the earliest Buddhist communities and they realised the secret long, long ago. Today, they’re like the wise man, peering through his wrinkled eyes with curiosity at all those youngsters with their worries and cravings. Smiling, they are, cause they know, that as you get older, you get wiser, and fewer things will worry you. And at the end, no things will worry you and all you got left is to smile.
During the train ride north, sun was setting in its full majesty of colouring. Orange as an, well orange, luminescent pink, deep purple and crystal blue flew lightly over the shining green fields dotted with cottages. Travelling makes you re-evaluate the concept of home, both for yourself and others. Where is my home and how come I can’t define it? When did Sweden stop drawing me back as a member of the community and now just appears to be the random place where I was born? How do these people, on the poorest country sides of the world, from Myanmar, Indonesia, Mali, Nicaragua, wherever, how do they look upon their homes, built on stilts in a swamp, walls made of tree leaves, sleeping on a blanket on the floor and maybe having dinner on the stairs outside. Broken plastic chairs as a luxury commodity, back garden full of garbage. As a modern country, Sweden is a lot about the concept of home. You need a home, a nice house, a big apartment, you need things inside of your home and you need more things to go with the things. And you need an area around that house which is just as pretty and well kept. A signal that what you see on the outside is just as pretty and tasteful as the home on the inside. I am one of those, I am it, cleaning my home four times a week, chasing second hand bargains, repainting, building, creating a space where I sit and stare and enjoy as “my home”. And then I look at the garbage lining the train tracks of the villages we pass by. It’s ugly, it’s smelly. Again, Slavoj Zizek pops into mind. I’m almost certain he even has a theory about garbage becoming a natural part of the environment. It’s just in our minds that we believe it’s not, our western minds that is. But it’s everywhere and sooner or later it will decompose and go back to nature, it’s just that we don’t like the sight of it. We don’t like the concept of it. If we consumed less, like, much, much less, we wouldn’t be standing with so much garbage on our hands, and hence, nature would be able to consume it by itself. That’s the original balance. Maybe the people of Myanmar is now getting there, to a point where they are over consuming, a point where mother nature no longer can help them to keep the trash out of sight and out of mind. So we sit on the train and we sigh, and we blame them for not recycling or composting. We blame them for taking our bad habits but not our “good ones”, those that are an inevitable result of our bad ones. We blame them for opening up to a world with other values, letting us in with our material needs and craving. At the same time I’m being the symptom of the disease of spreading western consumerism to formerly hidden places.
And maybe they smile, but they will also, inevitably, change. I love this country but I’m terrified of seeing what tourism is gonna do with it.