THE FINAL COUNTDOWN
It is 3 AM here in Bangkok and we are the final two remaining students still trying to pull an all-nighter. We are doing pretty well so far, shout out to coffee and red bull. We thought, in our efforts to stay awake, we would take some time to reflect on our amazing journey through Myanmar. In less than an hour we are heading off to the airport to go home. Being back in the Phoenix Hotel, we can’t help but being overcome with deja vue as we finish our journey in Southeast Asia in the same place it began. Sitting in this bed once again, we cannot believe how fast time has flown. It feels like only yesterday we were playing chinlow in LA, awkwardly trying to bond. Now we feel like we have known each other for ages. Our friendships were cultivated in such a magical place that there is a bond between us and Myanmar that no one else will ever understand. The friends we have made have helped us explore this exotic culture and question our intentions. Tears have already come out multiple times as we realized how much we benefit from one another and anxiously await our journeys home alone. Our group presents a broad spectrum of religious, political, and cultural diversity. Having such distinct varieties within our own group allows each of us to pose questions that the others might have never thought about. This diversity pushes us to be more open minded and to try to understand both Myanmar and each others’ perspectives.
We have had such interesting conversations, arguments, and experiences, all of which would not have been possible had we not embarked on this journey through one of the most diverse, spectacular areas of the world. Myanmar has changed all of us and, from now on, will be present in our thoughts, our dreams, and our goals. It’s easy after spending a month in any place to say you love it, but there’s something about the people here in Myanmar that distinguishes them from the rest of the world. It’s hard to understand unless you’ve been there, but it has something to do with the warmth, compassion, and wisdom that is present in every person we interacted with. It’s so easy in the Western world to get caught up in competition and focus only on yourself. Myanmar people live a life driven by community, selflessness, and serenity, something that is rarely echoed at home. Though the Myanmar people seem to have limited opportunities, they seem content with life itself.
We aren’t ready to go home.
Though we had encountered small pockets of westernization in Yangon, we truly did not experience Western “suck-a-tude” until we hit the Bangkok international airport earlier today. While getting our heavy packs off of the shuttle bus, we worked hard as a group to move out of people’s ways as quickly and efficiently as possible by using an assembly line. Slowly but surely a fat American began yelling at us for moving too slowly and blocking his car. Looking back into the shuttle, a group member informed the man that we were almost done, but the man replied “yeah, you’ve been ‘almost done’ for like ten minutes…” At first we were all in shock. It had been weeks since we’d heard a comment so passively inconsiderate and rude. It’s not that saying such a thing is considered impolite in Myanmar, but rather that the impatience that fuels such a comment doesn’t exist there. Little things in the airport, such as being appalled by semi-revealing clothing, made us start to realize how hard the transition home will be. This trip has changed us and, honestly, the thought of going home depresses both of us.
Thank you so much to everyone who was involved in our odyssey. We picked up a few friends along the way, and each one of them made our traveling family even stronger and our experience through Myanmar even richer. And, since our wake up call for the airport is approaching, we would like to say one last time : T.I.M (this is Myanmar).
-Izzy and Claudia