Wednesday, September 26, 2007


I've been worried for my friends in Myanmar over the last few days. Every time the news flash, my eyes search the crowd, half-dreading, half-hoping to see a familiar face.

My university internship was done in Yangon, at the then-Hotel Equitorial. I asked for a posting absolutely ANYWHERE in the world but Singapore, and I got it. Nobody knows about Myanmar then. It was a closed country. Nobody I know has been there, or even knows someone who's been to the place.

The 6 weeks I spent there humbled me. It made me grateful for the things I have here, in Singapore. At the same time, I learnt so much about sharing and about graciousness and about happiness.

The folks over there don't have a lot. Even now, if you have a $200 salary, you can raise a family, and stay in an apartment in town. They will cook little dishes, pack them into metal tiffins for lunch, AND THEY'LL ALWAYS COOK MORE. Not just one or two portions, but 4 or 5 portions, just so they can share it with friends.

I remember one lunch I had with the marketing department. 16 dishes going around, and everyone was so eager for me to try their cooking. The sheer generosity of that one gesture, as well as the overeating, floored me.

My colleauges had the perception that Singaporeans are really stuck up, and their noses were always up in the air, with a frown on the face. They asked why that's the case, since we have so much, and live in a country, where, compared to THEIR government, ours are frigging left wing liberals of the first degree.

I could not answer them. But I did come back to Singapore with the intention to grin at every person I meet stoically till they started smiling back.

The people in Myanmar are an innocent people. A lot of times they wear their hearts on their sleeves and are easy going to a fault. Maybe that's why the military junta can be in power for so long. Maybe that's why they get trampled on and they just bore with it.

Now, well... right now, I just pray that my friends over there are alright, and that they survive through whatever comes in their uncertain future.


Anonymous said...

I just read your entry. That day, when we chatted, I was only upset to hear of the atrocities bullies in-power inflict on innocent people. I didn't realise you are worrying for your friends as well.

I hope too, they are keeping safe.

Muscles are like pieces of rubber, the mind is everything - It seems your friends have what it takes to come out of this as the better men.


Vandalin said...

True. They're survivors, if nothing else. And most of them have lived through the 1988 riots.

Who knows. Maybe the next time I head back, it'll be a new Myanmar.