“There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

Friday, August 05, 2005

Mental images

Myanmar really is one of the most picturesque countries in the world.. everything is beautiful—the people, the children, the sights. Even the garbage and dirty is quaint enough to photograph well, even if it is the mélange of color and shapes and grime lines that make the image so poignant.

There are so many images of the country that stand out to make it unique: The men in their longi skirts, who look like they’re off to have a massage or spend time in a sauna, but are wearing collared shirts and business wear on top in a very clashing combination. The women with their streaks of rice paste across their cheeks, some kind of traditional sun block apparently, although I must say I’ve only seen the sky behind the clouds once or twice since I’ve been here, and the sun, never. The green, sprouting up from every crevice and crack, trees sheltering the train tracks beneath my window, and palm trees swaying in the breeze between two shanties. The mould, growing on every available surface, crawling in army lines up, down and across buildings, and when the rains go, they will be painted away and everything will look fresh and clean instead of just damp. The smiles of everyone I pass, from a child holding an umbrella from the storm, to a lady listing the products I’ve taken from a shelf in the super one supermarket, to the polite men who nod a slight bow of respect as they grin at me. The busy stalls on the street sides with unrecognizable (even to a tropical familiar) fruit and vegetables, and old ladies selling lunch from a curbside fire on small plastic stools. The ancient trucks and buses, crowded full of commuting people, with no windows (at all), and people sitting contently side-by-side chatting amicably with their neighbor. The tea-money, slipping blithely from fingertips to pockets, as hip of payer collides as he passes the briber—he pokes the money in there, as if a true servant or the briber to mighty to touch the other’s lowly fingertips. There’s the mud and water, filling the middle of the suburban intersections, sludging between me and the curb, and sloshing around my ankles as I run across the road. I bought the biggest umbrella I could find, but discovered that it’s too wide to negotiate between other’s umbrellas, and the lampposts, poles, trees, street-stalls, people and other obstacles that fill the roads and roadsides. I’m going to buy a handy purse sized one that doesn’t take up too much space!

No comments: