Tuesday, May 26, 2015

A Homecoming: More Thoughts from Yangon


I will always love you

I arrived from Bagan by bus just after sunset, when I were trust into Yangon’s dark, dirty streets. Smog and exhaust from cars came billowing in thick, odious clouds through my open window. I frowned and tried not to breathe. Returning to the familiar streets of Yangon feels like a homecoming. I missed this city’s dirty streets and even seeing them in the chaos of darkness I only grewgrown to love them more.

Myanmar doesn’t try to hide its true face. It doesn’t section off the foreigner and try to shield them from the unpleasant. All around us are sights of the real everyday lives of real people. They crowd into the back of pick up trucks, pull up their longyis to piss in the streets, they chant into their cellphones and yell at each other from their car windows. And I have no doubt in my mind that all these scenes would be taking place ever if my eyes were not to view them. They know we need a little cushion, we need a little more comfort than the local is accustomed to, but they know were are here, and we have to accept life here as it is, in its raw dirty form. Maybe that is why I like Yangon so much. It’s honest. It is an adolescent city, afraid to grow up, but unable to go back in time. It wants the freedom of an adult but the lightheartedness of a child, and it has neither.  It is in the process of discovering itself.  Young, old, and putting the awe in awkward. Yangon is a city best loved for its flaws, its moods, its grievances. Gritty and glamorous. Charming and chaotic. Nothing gets hidden in the light of day.

I didn’t hear the woman on the megaphone last night. I missed her sorrowful voice. I know now that the song she has been singing night after night is a Buddhist chant or prayer, and that same melody rang out in the streets of Mandalay and on the dirt roads of Bagan. It seems that no village is without a megaphone. It seems no night spent anywhere in Yangon is without the cries of a distance chanting. No night here can pass in silence. And certainly no morning. But last night the streets of Yangon were unusually quiet. I longed to hear the woman’s voice one last time. But it will live in my memory, and on my iphone and in many stories I tell about this great and wonderful city. It has already changed in the week that we have been gone. What will happen after one year? Or a decade? Nothing stays still here. When I return, if I ever will, I am sure I will find it completely changed. Only in my memory will it stay this way, like a picture bound by a frame, unmoving and unchanging for all eternity. Though the picture may be immortal,  it only captured one second in a lifetime. A moment so fleeting, yet so immortal.

- November 10, 2014

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