Hope, People, and Myanmar

As in all my travels,  it is the people who leave the most impression on me. My first trip in Myanmar was December 2014. Elections had been announced and was scheduled in a few months. Everywhere I went and with the people I interacted with–trekking guides in Kalaw and Inle Lake, motorcycle drivers in Mandalay, and locals everywhere— on warming-up to conversations,  talk would eventually turn to politics. Most knew Aquino was the Philippine president and they had deep regard for him and our country’s history of democratic struggle. The people I talked to were cautiously hopeful with the elections. Myanmar was changing rapidly. Mobile phones and sim cards are now widely available and cheap (sim cards years ago were as much as USD500 and were raffled off), a Norwegian company,  Telnor, was providing Internet connection, and people had Facebook. But the people were well aware of their history,  particularly what the post-1998 election events. So they was an edge in their hopes.

A year later, December 2015, I return.  Elections are over and the National League for Democracy has won more than 90% of parliamentary seats. Aung San Suu Kyi is everywhere. The people I have interacted with have hope in their eyes and optimism in their lips. A significant part of their dreams have come true. As motorcycle driver in Mandalay told me while sipping a cup of tea at a popular tea shop, “More change is coming. Slowly… slowly… but there will be change.”

It is my fervent wish that it really does happen.

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