We landed in Rangoon this evening, just in time to get to the hotel and grab dinner on the street.
Before I comment on the city, a few thoughts on the flights. The first flight with Nok Air didn’t leave Stephen happy: he was sitting next to a thermometer that read 29.4 degrees–or 85 Farenheit. That’s warm for a small, closed and claustrophobic area.
Our second flight with Air Asia was also interesting. It was cooler, but this required a strange white mist coming out of the vents.
I have sometimes noticed this on other flights, perhaps just part of recycled air. But this was oddly thick and continued through the entire flight; unnerving really. I felt like I was being poisoned or sedated.
But we arrived aware and unharmed as far as we know.
It’s very nearly what I expected in some sense: a run-down city with significant and obvious income inequality. I was surprised at the lack of motorbikes, considering the neighboring country that seems overrun by them. There are two obvious groups: those with cars and those with bicycles, on public buses, or walking.
I love the thanaka powder everywhere; the longyis worn throughout the city. I love the Burmese culture at every turn. I feel an odd sense of pride to see Burmese language in print on every building, to see longyis worn confidently, to see Burmese in established jobs. So much of what we see of Burmese migrants and refugees is struggle, often working in low-wage jobs. I want to cheer them on for their name tags and desk jobs and beautiful English.
I also ache for so many from this country that aren’t able to come here: that can’t legally travel to see the city in their own homeland. Papers are such a messy thing, and as I handed in my passport for a stamp, I was acutely aware of the value of papers. Not only can I safely live or visit my country, but I can visit so many others. So many of my dearest friends and mentors cannot legally live or visit anywhere–even their own villages and homes and families. There is such a painful discrepancy in that.