13.03.2010 - 15.03.2010
Still suffering from intermittent stomach problems, we returned to Rangoon, hotter than ever, to a coterie of relatives that wanted to see us before we left the country. Based on recommendations from other travelers, we stayed at Motherland 2, an inexpensive backpacker hotel. This was a mistake. We were tortured for most of the night by a leaky aircon, and I don't mean a little. There were big pools of water all over the floor in the morning. The constant drip kept us awake, but when I finally did fall asleep in an Ambien induced half slumber, I dreamt that my bed was submerged and I was drowning. I was sure that our spy, Dr. Myint, had struck again. First it was the POISON FISH, and now BURMESE WATER TORTURE.
Having survived the night, barely, we were met in the late morning by a different niece of one of our U.S. students, since Sue Wei Wei had given birth during our absence. She was accompanied by the young, half Chinese friend, Aung Ko, who we had met earlier, and who continued to act as translator.
We suggested going to movies as a way to get out of the heat. Sherlock Homes was playing and we asked if there were English subtitles.
"No, No English subtitles because the movie is in English," Aung Ko said.
When we got to the nearly empty theater, it was cold inside, not unlike the bus ride to Mandalay. As it turned out, there were no Burmese subtitles either.
We asked how anyone local could understand it.
"Oh, they get some of it. The movies are almost always in English."
How or why the Burmese would want to go to a movie without subtitles in their own language is hard to understand. It was an experience to see a Hollywood production, with British English accents, in a place where no one would know what the characters were saying, or for that matter, even know about Sherlock Homes.
The next day, our last in Burma, Yu Yu's mother came to see us again, and brought us to her house where there were still more relatives waiting. This house had been in the family for many years. Of course they fed us more ice-cream than we could possible eat. It is expensive here, and they rarely eat it for that reason.
We were an anomaly in this neighborhood and people openly stared.
There were street vendors, kite makers, and bicycle tuk tuk drivers with flowers and transistor radios.
It was a fitting end to our visit. We left for Bangkok, and after two days and some indecision, for Bali and Indonesia. Stayed tuned for posts from that country and Laos.
As a post-script, we recently got yet another bizarre and somewhat indecipherable email from Dr. Win Myint, who we have been told by Nanda, is not a spy. We still have our doubts. Nanda is the Sayadaw in the Burmese monastery in Bangkok. He is now visiting the States after having received a tourist visa with our sponsorship. Unfortunately Ni Ley, the monk who showed us around Mandalay[i], was denied a visa. We are heart broken about this, as he so much wants to leave the country, and we were hoping to help him do so. We are not giving up. Unfortunately for the Burmese and the other ethnic groups in this country, the military government obviously does not give a damn about them. Right now at least, there is little they can do about it, and I fear that by the time they can, there will be nothing left.