Love from Myanmar (and other places)

Jet setting around the world is associated with the rich and famous. I am quite certain I am not famous by any standard (besides the fact that years ago every Japanese said to me you look like Meggu Lyan – yes the long time famous actress, Meg Ryan!) Technically speaking I am not super rich, but for sure in comparison with probably 90% of this world’s population I am more than affluent and live of a rather strange idiosyncrasy called development work. I earn money with my skills and knowledge to achieve a hopefully more just world for that same 90%. When I am really cynical I could say, I earn money because there are poor people and this is a line followed often with critique of development work. Development work and humanitarian aid have become an industry over the backs of the poor.

If I would hear my latest schedule I would have difficulty not to agree. In two and half weeks Mozambique I worked a lot, but also spend a weekend on a beautiful tropical island called Inhaca and over Easter weekend I was on Safari in Krugerpark, South Africa. The park is (for African standards) so close to Maputo that it was an amazing opportunity to go there. Currently I am writing this blog in a hotel in Yangon, Myanmar. Another end of the world, for a conference on women’s leadership that starts tomorrow. After this I go back through Bangkok and will visit a friend over the weekend before heading home. Basically visits to four different countries in one month, two for work, the other two for leisure conveniently attached.

Do I question my motives sometimes for being in this work? The easy answer is yes, but not all the time. It has strangely become my reality out of a conviction that will not change. One where I do not find it strange that I have these opportunities and meetings far, far apart, but all for the same strong cause – a just world for all. I know I really try to give it my best in each country and I definitely feel an incredibly gratitude to be enriched by these experiences. To hold onto this sense of gratitude and awareness of the privileges of this work, I really try to do one thing: never to take anything for granted.

Arriving in Yangon has been no different. To switch all of a sudden from working in African countries to an Asian one has had a bit of a lost in translation effect, smells have changed, sounds, humidity, clothing, complexion, like I switched a TV channel and started watching a new programme, but someone forgot to tell me that the series is already half way. Just the little taxi ride from the airport to the hotel was an explosion of (mostly) visual sensations. Unreadable number plates in Burmese, the Buddhist monks in red tunics on the side walk, men in wrappers, boys and women with white wiped on their face (maybe against the sun like in Africa?), the golden rooftops of a temple, slightly derelict buildings, more or less French colonial style, lots of trees with the bright yellow golden rain, people picnicking next to large lakes with indecipherable monuments. Chances are I will have little time to explore, as I am here for the above mentioned conference (!) but I promise to both work hard and appreciate whatever comes my way otherwise.

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