I wrote this while we were in Hpa’an, the capital of Kayin State in southern Myanmar. The sentiments I felt then are even stronger now as we begin the end of our month in Myanmar, and I hope we can make the best of our time here:

(Copied from my journal)

To my companions in Myanmar:

I am writing this because I’m not sure I’ll have the opportunity to say this to all of you as well I mean to. Today, sometime in the middle of planting rice in rural Kayin State, something deep inside of me clicked. I felt a sense of belonging in a way that I haven’t felt before. A sense of belonging not only with the place I was in, but also with the people I was with – you all. I just paused to consider that I’ve only known you for a little over two weeks but it doesn’t matter. I love you all so thoroughly. In the short time we’ve been acquainted, and the shorter time that we’ve been friends, you all have persistently made my life more energetic, happier, richer.

I doubt we even would have liked each other had the circumstances under which we met been different. I think that we are too varied, too eclectic and sporadic and colorful, for our friendships to have taken flight if we didn’t have this country to unite us. To join us in awe as we gazed up at the limestone monoliths dotting the flat rice paddies of Kayin State. To bring us together in laughter as we traversed the Shan hills. To give us all something that we love so dearly, something that we could use to kick start our relationships. I know that I will have a little piece of Myanmar buried within me forever – a piece that is separate from the chunk that is already developing. This piece is just for all of you.

I should mention that I don’t like many people. I’m fairly cynical and hard to impress, at least on a personal level. All eleven of you have impressed me. When we ate dinner with students from EGG, one of them, a twenty-odd year old pupil of Khine Thet Tun’s, began calling me Younger Brother and I him Older Brother. He was a brother in name, you are my brothers and sisters in spirit. I have to value you, no, to love you fiercely, and I am both distraught that we only have 12 days left together and delighted that we still have 12 days together.

Owen Yager


Hpa’an, Myanmar