This week’s edition of ‘A world of inspiration‘ is by Dave and Deb who hail from Canada. Dave and Deb are adventure travellers, traversing the globe on bicycles, in a kayak or by foot. They share with us an inspiring story which is a lovely tribute to the people of Myanmar, and a powerful lesson for us all.
The Man from Mandalay
There is nothing easy about traveling through Myanmar (Burma). Taking local buses can be difficult, uncomfortable and long. Trying to avoid government fees and staying and eating at locally run establishments is practically impossible and the poverty and suffering can be hard on your psyche. But when you meet the people and actually talk to them, you feel a little embarrassed about complaining about your difficult situation.
Their plight is heartbreaking. Trying to live under the rule of a military junta is incomprehensible. To be cut off from the outside world with no end in sight and to know that the rest of the world has all but forgotten you has to be a hopeless situation. Most of the time we questioned whether or not we should be there. After all, the country has sanctions put on it, people have been told to boycott any travel there and even imprisoned Nobel Laureate Aung Suk Yi urges tourists not to visit her country.
However, when we traveled in Myanmar, we felt welcomed. People were eager to talk to us, practice their English and to tell us their stories. Many people would approach us on the street. They would ask us where we were staying, where we were from and then they would talk to us about their lives.
There was one man when we were in Mandalay that touched us very deeply. He was involved in the student riots of 1989 and he told us about his difficult life. With a broad smile on his face, he talked about his time in prison. He walked with a hunch and slight limp because he had broken shoulder from carrying rocks while incarcerated. He let us feel it and had a sense of pride while he spoke of surviving his ordeal.
His Brother was still in prison and he was going to visit him next week. We gave him our sympathy, but he waved us off and stated that his brother is tough and is practically running the place.
It is a tragic story. He said that he doesn’t know what his future holds and yet he laughed, told jokes and quoted many popular English Sayings. He got a kick out of practicing his cool English phrases with us. Whenever we saw him, we would ask how he was doing and he would smile and say “I’ve got too many fish to fry working 24/7.”
We felt that we became friends in the short time we were there. We met regularly, had beers together and talked a lot on the street. He carried around a book that a previous traveler had given him quoting from it regularly and when we left him a couple of our own he was so excited and overwhelmed.
After traveling to Myanmar, we would never be the same.
The people of Myanmar humbled us. So many people had similar stories to his and many wanted to share them with us. It was like they wanted us to make sure that we told their stories when we went home. One man went as far as asking us to carry a letter from him to our government. We declined because you never know who is watching, but I sometimes feel guilty about not taking them with me.
They would go out of their way to show us back door entrances to Pagoda’s and attractions to avoid the government fees, they would invite us into their homes for tea and they would go above and beyond whenever we needed anything. They had so little to give, and yet they were willing to share it.
After traveling to Myanmar, we would never be the same. Our eyes were opened to a people that had a quiet dignity. A people that suffer daily and yet have the strength to laugh and live: a people that had warm and welcoming smiles and a people that touched our hearts.
About this week’s guest writer
Dave and Deb are an Adventure Travel Couple from Canada. They have traveled to over 35 countries where they have taken on extreme adventures from Cycling from Cairo to Cape Town and Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. Follow their adventures at The Planet D as they paddle, hike, climb, scuba dive and trek their way around the globe.
To complement this article, Dave & Deb wrote a wonderful piece on their blog titled “Inspiration Through the Eyes of Two Travelers“.
Follow Dave and Deb on Twitter.
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