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Published: February 16th 2012
I have been moved on my travels, I have been forced to contemplate the reality of life with a slap and understood how naive I am. I look at life for what it is with a hint of philosophical consideration but rarely do I chew over my behaviours unless they are emotionally motivated through action or consequence. Sometimes I shy away from this kind of dangerous thought because I seldom find answers and this can be hard to deal with or hurtful. I have come to recognise that some people are just unkind and malicious both intentionally and unintentionally; my boyfriend told me once in Cambodia that people are not always intentionally nasty but they are not there to think about every action and consequence and sometimes the outcomes can be hurtful without deliberation. I have made my peace with this. As individuals we are selfish and this makes sense, we of course look after ourselves in order to preserve what we have rather than tend to someone else before us, unless of course you are a mother like mine and I am sure there are some fathers out there like this also and I too have a glimpse of
this through my step-father whose kindness knows no bounds. History is littered with intolerable actions but part of being human is to recognise those unacceptable behaviours and avoid them. That’s the difference between human and animal no?
I watch the Burmese people mill about their ordinary lives, helping others, talking to friends, smiling, sharing their blood red betel (a natural substance they chew which acts as an amphetamine) which slimes over their teeth and covers the dusty roads in blood-red splashes through their spitting. They stop and turn when they see my sunny hair bobbing through the crowds, shining like a beacon amongst a mass of black. They ask me where I am going? How am I? and Where am I from? They smile when I reply that I am from England and are eager to talk with me. Through my mother’s actions she taught me behaviour towards others is a hugely important part of interacting within society; she helps others when they are lost, hurt, and anxious and she is a stunningly perceptive lady. I can’t count the number of people who she has helped in her life time on two
hands and sadly a number who have hurt her. For all the hurt and heart ache she has been unfortunate to encounter she is still a strong, successful woman whom I have a lot to learn from and it is here in Burma I see her everywhere; in the smiles of those who stare at me, in the words of directions from those who can see I am lost, in the hotel owners who have helped me through sickness, in the doctor who didn’t charge me, in the children who follow me and laugh with me. The essence of these people is what I see in my mother. She always told me she helps others in the hope that if one day I am in need of help someone will come to my rescue. It’s a good, honest, hearty way to live, it is healthy not only for the soul but for the world. For all Burma’s faults the people are incredible.
U-Beins bridge just outside of Mandalay situated in Amarapura is the famous teak bridge which stretches over a huge expanse of water for 1.2 km and is famous for the
sunsets dropping behind silhouetting monks, locals, and children returning home after a long day at work. I have no such photos as it was here that I suddenly took ill and had to return back to Mandalay quickly. The structure is formidable, but I never got to walk it. It is a very touristy place and just before sunset it is full of bus loads of elderly Europeans stepping from the safety of their government paying tour. Instead of hanging around the bridge we took a walk back the way we came in the pick-up as we noticed a few pagodas, monasteries and little villages full of life completely devoid of tourist activities. These little lanes surrounding the monastery school and pagodas were incredible. We observed monks drinking tea, smoking and playing chess with the locals or which each other; little monk boys joined in with elder monks playing football, their maroon robes wrapped tightly high up their thighs like sumo wrestler pants. We passed old monks washing from a public wash bath, watched as locals pulled buckets of water up out of a communal well and stepped out of the way to let ox carts trudge past. We came
upon a street flooded in white dust from the carvings of Buddhas being made; the trees, the path, the buildings all shrouded in pure whiteness like some holy cloud. Women washed clothes and hung them out to dry over the walls of snow white pagoda gardens whilst children ran between the pyramid structures. A family of farmers passed by with seven or eight cows, we later encountered them watering by the river as the children larked about naked in the water, splashing each other with the encouragement of their mother. It is incredible to witness real life here in Burma as they make do without the ‘necessities’ we see as so essential in our lives as they spin a web of safety around us.; their lives so pure, untouched and natural.
As the day got hotter and I grew more anxious over the pain in my abdomen we admitted defeat and started to consider finding our driver to take us back. The driver was nowhere to be seen and the urgency to get back grew more and more hastily. Men saw me sitting on the ground and clearly concerned they would
approach and ask if I was OK and could they help me? Could they get me water? Food? Eventually they tried to find our driver and were unable to contact him so they found us an alternative back. The kind man got us back speedily and as quickly as possible, just in time. Again, I found myself overwhelmed by the kindness of the people here in Burma, so like my mother.
This kindness is rare. Sometimes we are let down by the people we love and those who we thought we could trust and whose actions are irreversible. Those moments are sad and life changing but when you meet a complete stranger who is willing to give you their time, spend their money on you and help you without asking for a thing in return, well it is purely incredible. It is a refreshing break from the self-centered, money grabbing, egotistical types who cram themselves in to western societies. It is such a rare occurrence and something we can all learn from. I have been in places where I have been lost or clearly in need
of some help or guidance and have been shunned by the very people who live in my own country, share the same skin colour, hair colour, eye colour and language. I have been swindled out of money by greedy Vietnamese and cheated by money changers, I have had my fair share of wicked experiences which have left me vulnerable, fragile and exasperated. The people in Burma have very little of monetary value but what they do have is a sense of duty and through this altruistic kind actions towards those in need. The people of the western world could learn a lot from these astonishing people; I too could learn a lot from these astonishing people.
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