Friday, October 1, 2010

Life so far in Burma

So, we've been in Burma for 2 months now and we've had time to acclimate to living in this Junta-run country. It's not quite what I expected in some ways. Here are some of the more interesting things we've noticed.

1. Considering the international sanctions against Burma, I've been surprised by the rather robust availability of nearly everything. Sure, there are some "American" items that you can't get; peanut butter being one of those essentials. I take that back, you can get peanut butter, if you don't mind a Chinese version or Thai version. Luckily we brought a good stock with us. Heatherly makes fun of my addiction to Jif Extra Crunchy; but I'm not the only one as we've given some away already to other perfectly sane and discriminating friends. Otherwise, if you're standing in one of the markets, you could just as easily be in a market in China or Thailand or Singapore.

2. Cash and lots of it. You can't do anything by credit card here, so you must pay in cash. Which wouldn't be so bad if the value of the Myanmar Kyat were a little better. Right now it's at about 1000 Kyat for each dollar, so a trip to the grocery store to get $60 to $80 of food requires one of us to be the "bag" man. The predominant bill is the 1000 Kyat note, so you have to count out 60 of those. Heaven knows how making a big purchase would go down, such as a $30,000 car. I imagine we'd need a couple of heavies for protection, a non-descript briefcase and a mutually beneficial location in a semi-public place. The transaction itself would take hours (1, 2, 3, 4....).

3. Roads are rough in most places, harder to describe the farther out you get. Sometimes a road is simply where the houses are not. And there aren't that many of them outside the towns.

4. News is not the Washington Post or the New York Times, not even Fox or CNN. The main newspaper of the Burma government is 1 or 2 pages of national "news" and 20 pages of international news that tends to be more supermarket tabloid. The information age is an infant here.

5. Restaurants are everywhere! For a country where the average income is about $2 a day, there are a ton of restaurants in Yangon. We haven't had a chance to go to many of them yet, but the ones we have gone to are pretty good.

Although there are other things that define and distinguish Burma, there is common ground. The people are gentle, friendly and, like all of us on this dust mote in God's great universe, just trying to live, love and find some happiness in life. Despite the poverty and difficult living conditions we've seen, they are still moms and dads, working hard to raise their children and maybe, just maybe, find happiness in seeing their children's children.

Children's children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children. Prov 17:6


Rhonda Fox said...

Thank you so much for posting a brief descritpion of what life is like in Burma. I am so interested and appreciate you sharing your experiences. I completely agree with the Burmese and Karen people are very gentle and friendly.

Dr. Rick said...

So easy to see people everywhere just want love (misquoting the Young Rascals' song). Currency exchange sounds a bit like 1500 old Italian Lira to equal one US dollar. Need deep pockets to buy gum.