Traveling the World
I was fortunate to recently travel to Myanmar (formerly Burma). It is a country that has been isolated for many years from the rest of the world due to its political and military unrest as well as due to being sanctioned for human rights violations.
My journey there was with my partner, Jim, whose mission is to teach others how to use their local forests to make value-added products. We met with members of the new Parliament, City Council members, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOS) and individual citizens.
Myanmar is a gorgeous country and the people are just as beautiful. Very few speak English. The majority of people are Buddhists and almost every hilltop had a Buddhist Pagoda on it. Christians and Hindus are in the minority. Everyone appeared to be working very hard. There are thousands of small shops lining every street offering raw and cooked food to rebuilt electric motors to books and clothing.
Out of the big cities, there is a lot of rural development, with farming and tree plantations noticeable almost everywhere.
Everyone reads newspapers, as they have not yet developed online news or social information systems. No retail business is done online, in fact, when I asked a well-educated shop owner if they were online, they looked at me like I had three eyes!
There is an underlying fear among the population, though, likely due to the oppressive military government running the country for so long. People are afraid to speak up about issues. We were told by the US Embassy not to discuss the Rohingya crisis with the Myanmar people. When we did ask our guide about it, he lacked information and wasn’t able to express any opinion about it. He said he really didn’t know what was happening. In our hotel room, they had a lot of BBC documentaries and we learned more about what was going on in the country from those shows than from talking with the people.
So, what is the point of this blog? To witness the effects of oppression was very sobering and to know that information is withheld from the population was something I had never experienced before. With all that, even though I come from one of the most industrialized countries in the world, and they are one of the least developed, we could still talk about our families and our goals in life. People truly are the same everywhere!
Jim and I plan to go back at some point to work more closely with the villages and provide hands-on training and advice on how to use their firewood to make value-added products.